By Lance Jenkinson
It was a case of who dares wins for Dominic Thiem at the quarter final stage of Australian Open 2020.
Attack was the order of the night for the Austrian, who refused to die wondering and got a handsome dividend with a 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 victory over Spaniard Rafael Nadal at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday night.
As to be expected against an endurance beast like Nadal, Thiem was made to fight every step of the way to clinch a memorable win.
It took the world No. 5 four hours and 10 minutes to emerge victorious.
The 26-year-old survived three tense tiebreakers.
“I’m really proud of how I stayed in the match after a very tough situation when I served for it [and got broken], 5-4 in the fourth set,” Thiem said. “I really threw away that game with pretty stupid mistakes. He played a well game to 6-5. I really stayed in the match, got it together everything again in the breaker.
“That’s what I’m proud of, that I overcame this small or short, weak part of my game.”
You could tell from the outset that Thiem meant business.
Thiem imposed himself on the match with some searing heat on his shots from the baseline.
His backhand was his weapon of choice, ripping it to both corners, leaving Nadal to backtrack helplessly.
Thiem was over the moon after causing an upset.
“Of course, very proud of the win in general,” he said. “It’s amazing to beat the current world No. 1, Rafa, such a legend.
“Of course, first-time semis here, it’s a very special victory for me.”
Nadal was always behind the eight ball, but he never threw in the towel.
It was a night of frustration for the top seed and he took it out on the chair umpire in a couple of exchanges.
Just when Nadal seemed like he was finding a way back into the contest, Thiem would invariably find a big winner – or even a lucky break on occasions with the ball fortuitously tipping over the net.
Nadal felt like he left all he had out on the court. He said the result had more to do with Thiem’s strong play as opposed to any perceived failures on his part.
“Yeah, I think he’s playing great,” Nadal said. “He’s playing with a lot of energy, aggressive, determination, so well done for him.
“I honestly didn’t play a bad match. My attitude was great, I think, during the whole match.”
Nadal’s quest for a second Australian Open title goes on.
It is now 10 years since the Mallorcan has saluted in Melbourne.
Thiem, runner up at the ATP World Tour finals last year, gets his chance to play off in a semi final against the inexperienced, but no less dangerous, German Alexander Zverev.
It is the third time that Thiem has made it through to a semi final of a grand slam, having done that twice at the French Open.
“For me, it’s funny because it’s the first time in a grand slam semi-finals I face a younger guy,” Thiem said. “We’re good friends. I’m happy for him, as well, that he’s playing so good here.
“He made his breakthrough at a grand slam. We have no secrets from each other. I mean, we played so many times, also on very special occasions already, at the ATP Finals, semis, French Open quarters.
“It’s a nice rivalry we have. It’s great that we add an Australian Open semifinals to this one.”