World No. 3 Dominic Thiem admitted he was "pretty lucky" to win the first set against Rafael Nadal and he knew he had to stay fully focused after winning the opener as he expected the Spaniard to raise his level and do his best to force a comeback.
Thiem, who recently claimed his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open, edged out world No. 2 Nadal in two tight sets 7-6 (7) 7-6 (4) to improve to 2-0 at the Nitto ATP Finals. Thiem was down 5-2 in the first-set tie-break -- Nadal had set points at 6-5 and 7-6 -- but failed to convert and he paid the price for it as Thiem realized his first set point at 8-7 to win a tight opener.
“I think it was a great match from the first to the last point,” Thiem said after the match, per the Nitto ATP Finals website. “I was pretty lucky to get that first set. I was 2/5 down in the tie-break. Against Rafa, it is nice to win the first set but he is still there 100 per cent from the first to the last point.
I knew that maybe I had a slight advantage when I won the first set, but I still had to stay super focused."
Thiem says it was one of his best ever matches
Thiem recovered from a break down in the second set to force a tie-break, in which he converted his second match point to push Nadal to a 1-1 record at the Nitto ATP Finals.
"The match was at a very high level with all strokes,” Thiem added. “I am very happy with the way I served, because most of the time when I get the first serve in, I am on the offence and I have a good percentage to win the point.
When I was in difficult situations like the first-set tie-break… the serve helped me out a lot. I think it is maybe the most important stroke in indoor tennis. I am very happy that it worked well." Thiem was thrilled with the way he performed against 20-time Grand Slam champion Nadal.
"It was definitely one of the best matches I have played in my career. It came close to the 2nd group match last year against Djokovic. We both played great tennis. Then, matches like this can happen," Thiem noted, per Nikolaus Fink.