ATP Finals: Thiem dents Nadal's last-four hopes
Austria's Dominic Thiem produced a stunning display of attacking tennis to beat Rafael Nadal 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/4) in a high-quality duel at the ATP Finals this morning (Singapore time), and seized control of their group.
World No. 3 Thiem saved a couple of set-points in the first tiebreak before whipping away a forehand to take an opening set in which there was barely anything between the two.
Spaniard Nadal, bidding to win the only big title to elude him, engineered the first break of the match at 3-3 in the second set, only for Thiem to reply in stunning fashion.
"It was a great match. I was pretty lucky to get that first set after being 5-2 down in the tiebreak," Thiem said.
"He is there 100 per cent from the first point to the last and I knew I had to stay focused."
Nadal was on the brink of defeat when he slipped 0-40 behind serving at 4-5 after a wayward smash, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion dug himself out of a hole, saving three match-points.
US Open champion Thiem was unshakeable, however, and forged his way into a 6-3 lead in the second tiebreak.
Nadal clawed one point back, but Thiem finished it off when his opponent dragged a backhand wide.
World No. 2 Nadal's hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals will rest on his final group match against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Over in the other group, Daniil Medvedev's bid to enter the last four started on a positive note with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Alexander Zverev yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Medvedev's ATP Finals debut last year proved to be a chastening experience as he suffered three defeats.
The Russian will take heart that Novak Djokovic, his next opponent, also lost all three of his group matches on his debut in 2007, but returned a year later to beat Nikolay Davydenko to claim the title in Shanghai.
"I actually didn't know that he (Djokovic) was 0-3 in his first appearance. I also saw today that he's won 12 consecutive opening (group) matches at the ATP Finals, so hopefully I can do the same," said Medvedev, referring to the Serb's 6-3, 6-2 win over debutant Diego Schwartzman on Monday. - REUTERS