November 17, 2020
Dominic Thiem triumphed over Rafael Nadal in the most exciting two-set match of the entire year.
How we longed for a third set to be sent to us from the tennis gods. But perhaps it was too much to ask.
The Austrian was just too good on this memorable and truly epic afternoon. Eventually he edged it 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4).
Let’s face it, Thiem had to be almost superhuman to win this classic.
Nadal was at the peak of his game. These two giants fired more than sixty winners between them. How could the Spaniard hit such heights and yet still lose?
Somehow Thiem not only fought fire with fire, he overcame a huge psychological set-back too.
Defiant Nadal saved no fewer than four match points, including three in succession on his serve at 4-5.
Yet the younger man would not let his demons get the better of him. Thiem was just too outstanding to be denied.
Single-handed backhands pinged off his racquet with all the exquisite beauty of Stan Wawrinka in his prime.
And even the great Novak Djokovic would have been proud of two incredible stretching defensive forehands when all looked lost.
Thiem is quite simply the complete player.
Both men managed amazing ‘tweeners under immense pressure to keep rallies alive. Rafa even won a point with the help of such dazzling skill.
Had there been a crowd in London’s O2 Arena, they would have been up on their feet for almost the entire match.
We missed the roars and gasps. But Thiem knew this extraordinary show had brought us unparalleled entertainment.
He said: ‘The atmosphere would’ve been unreal today I guess. But we put on a good show for the TV and I really hope people enjoyed it at home and forgot the tough times we’re going through for two hours.’
We did. And it was a lovely comment from the winner, one to equal the beauty of the tennis itself.
We don’t have long to wait until the crowds return to tennis in London. Wimbledon 2021 isn’t far away now.
Just imagine Nadal and Thiem going at it again. This time on the perfect grass of Centre Court in a few months.
What an amazing sight that would be!
Indeed Nadal and Thiem may yet face each other again this week. Perhaps even in the final, if Djokovic slips up somehow.
If the rematch happens, there’s no guarantee Nadal won’t take revenge. As Thiem pointed out later, Rafa was 5-2 up in the first breaker. He had a set point too.
But Thiem was right when he reflected: ‘I think it was a great match at a very high level from the first to the last point.
‘In the end one man is always a little luckier and has a slightly better day.’
Luckiest of all were those of us watching this drama as it unfolded.
Tennis is the gift that keeps on giving. Wimbledon 2021 will be the ultimate.
We can’t wait!