Barcelona: Dominic Thiem knocked favourite and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal out of the Barcelona Open tennis tournament with a stunning 6-4, 6-4 victory in Saturday’s semifinal, avenging his defeat by the Spaniard in last year’s French Open final.
The Austrian will meet 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final after the Russian also pulled off a surprise by edging out fourth seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a tight match.
Thiem had lost his last two matches against World No.2 Nadal, at Roland Garros as well as a thrilling five-setter in the US Open quarterfinals, but he won their last meeting on Spanish soil, beating the Mallorcan in last year’s Madrid Open.
The Austrian, ranked fifth in the world, broke Nadal to take a 3-2 lead in the opener and held in the next game thanks to a stunning crosscourt forehand winner before seeing out the set.
Thiem broke Nadal again and was serving for the match but Nadal dug deep to earn three breakpoints only to lose each one, Thiem leveling the game with an ace after a marginal call from the umpire. He sealed his fourth career victory over Nadal in 12 matches with a softly-struck backhand, ending the Spaniard’s chances of a fourth consecutive Barcelona Open title.
“I’m always super proud if I beat him (Nadal) because he’s the best player ever on this surface, and it’s always very special to beat him here on clay,” Thiem told reporters. “We always had great matches in the past, and also today was very good and I was more lucky and I got the win.”
Twice Barcelona champion Nishikori beat Medvedev in the final of the Brisbane International in January but the Russian took an early advantage by breaking the World No.7 in the seventh game. Medvedev comfortably saw out the set but was pegged back by the Japanese, who won five games in a row to take the second set and make an ideal start to the decider.
Medvedev, ranked 14th however, in the third set managed to get a match point on Nishikori’s serve in the 12th game. He clinched it with a down the line winner to close out the match.