Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem played an exhibition match in Adelaide prior to the Australian Open. Rafa won that one, and it turned out to be their only meeting in 2021, both battling injuries and finishing the season earlier than expected.
When asked about Nadal, Thiem placed the Spaniard among the top three players in men’s tennis alongside Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and stated that it was an honor and a privilege to meet him and share the court with such a great rival.
Between 2014-2020, Nadal and Thiem have played 15 matches, with the Austrian defeating the top-ranked opponent no less than six times, including four notable wins on clay. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Nadal likely prevented Thiem from lifting the Roland Garros trophy, beating him once in the semi-finals and two title matches.
At last year’s Australian Open, Dominic beat Rafa 7-6, 7-6 4-6, 7-6 after four hours and ten minutes! The Austrian advanced to his fifth Major semi-final and first off clay, facing Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.
Thiem was the most aggressive player, claiming key points from the first two sets to build a huge lead, prevailing despite losing serve four times and delivering one fewer break.
Dominic won five more points than Rafa, sweeping around 65 winners to keep the points on his racket and leaving the 2009 champion far behind on the longest rallies. As the result suggests, the Spaniard had his chances in the three sets he lost, losing ground when it mattered most and cracking under pressure to power the Austrian.
Dominic Thiem says it was an honor to play against Rafael Nadal
Their most recent meeting came at the ATP Finals last year, and it was also until the last minute. In one of the best games of the season, Dominic beat Rafa 7-6, 7-6 in two hours and 25 minutes to maintain a perfect record in London.
The Austrian survived all obstacles in an incredible match, winning five consecutive tiebreakers against the Spanish if we count the Australian Open and achieving the sixth victory over Rafa.
There were only two service breaks in games seven and eight of set number two, and they stood side by side the entire time and produced a great level of tennis that was worth the title clash.
Thiem and Nadal will have more opportunities to share the court next year if they recover from injuries. “Rafael Nadal is one of the three male tennis players. It was an honor to meet him and share the court with him many times,” said Dominic Thiem.