After a couple of mediocre seasons, Rafael Nadal returned at his best in 2017. The Spaniard conquered Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Marid and went to Rome as the top favorite. However, Rafa failed to chase the title at Foro Italico after losing to Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3 in the quarter-final.
The Austrian sealed the deal in an hour and 51 minutes, ending the rival's 17-match winning streak and advancing into the last four. Nadal could not deal with the rival's powerful strokes, experiencing his third straight quarter-final loss at one of his favorite tournaments.
Thiem and Nadal met for the sixth time, all on clay, and the younger player celebrated his second victory. The encounter could have come in the semi-final or the final, with two of them standing as the best clay-courters at that moment and playing in the title clash in Barcelona and Madrid.
Rafa thought about skipping Rome after winning Madrid, but he still came and gave his best in the Italian capital.
Dominic Thiem ousted Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Rome Masters quarter-final.
The rivals needed almost two hours to wrap up 17 games, with ten of those reaching deuces, including seven of the last eight!
Rafa served at 76%, but that only brought him a little. He lost 46% of the points in his games, facing eight break points and losing serve four times. On the other hand, Dominic fended off six out of seven break points, prevailing in the crucial moments and not letting Rafa climb back on the scoreboard.
Unlike in their previous two matches, the Austrian was there to fight until the last point, gathering a boost on the previous night after fending off three match points versus Sam Querrey. Thiem went for all-or-nothing shots against the king of clay, ripping bullets from both wings and keeping Nadal far behind the baseline and out of balance.
His serves and groundstrokes were more potent, and he dismantled the Spaniard in the more extended rallies. Dominic kicked off the match at full speed. He broke Rafa two times to forge a 5-1 advantage in no time and settle into a fine rhythm.
Everything worked great for the Austrian. He hit the ball with great depth and pace, leaving Spaniard with no answer and pushing him far away from the baseline. Nadal made a good hold in game seven and converted the fourth break chance in the next one to pull one break back and reduce the deficit to 5-3.
Thiem served for the set for the second time in game ten and wrapped it up after Nadal's loose backhand for 6-4 in 50 minutes. Rafa denied two break points in the second set's fifth game, battling hard but not feeling comfortable against an attacking opponent.
Nadal squandered a game point at 3-3 and got broken after Thiem's two winners. Dominic forged the advantage and faced three break points in the eighth game. He stayed calm, denied them and brought the game home to open a 5-3 lead and keep the pressure on the other side.
Rafa cracked under pressure and sprayed a forehand error in the ninth game to drop serve and propel Dominic into the semi-final. Thus, Thiem became the seventh player with multiple clay-court wins over Nadal.
Rod Laver addresses Rafael Nadal targeting post-surgery comeback in 2024
Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal to set a new tennis record!
Roger Federer hilariously answers Rafael Nadal's question at 2023 Laver Cup
Iga Swiatek shares what she really admires about Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer reveals Rafael Nadal is his best doubles partner!
Ben Shelton reveals Rafael Nadal is his great source of inspiration