ThrowbackTimes Barcelona: Dominic Thiem dethrones Rafael Nadal in straight sets

Between 2005-2018, Rafael Nadal was the dominant figure at the ATP 500 event in Barcelona, winning 61 out of 64 matches and conquering 11 titles from 14 appearances! That all changed two years ago when Nadal failed to lift the trophy in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, losing in the semi-final at both events to struggle a bit on his beloved surface. Fabio Fognini took the Spaniard down in Monte Carlo after a poor performance from the Spaniard. Dominic Thiem left Rafa empty-handed in Barcelona following a 6-4, 6-4 triumph in two hours and four minutes for a place in the second final at this event. Struggling with injuries in the season’s opening three months, Nadal kicked off the clay swing with high hopes, although he was yet to show his well-known masterclass at his favorite tournaments, lacking speed and depth and competing miles behind the level from 2017 and 2018.

Thiem was one of only four players with three victories over Rafa on clay before this encounter, passing Fabio Fognini and Gaston Gaudio to become only the second competitor after Novak Djokovic with four ATP wins against Nadal on dirt. Rafa had never lost after reaching the quarter-final in Barcelona before. Still, he stood no chance in this clash, never creating a break chance before the last game of the match (it could have been his fourth ATP match on clay without break opportunities, the first since 2003) and suffering two breaks to push Thiem into the final.

Dominic Thiem ousted Rafael Nadal in Barcelona 2019.

Two years earlier, the Austrian claimed only five games against Rafa in the title match here in Barcelona. We saw utterly different encounter this time around, with the younger player having the edge on both serve and return to bring the triumph home in straight sets. Dominic defended his backhand wing on the return and crushed Rafa with deep and powerful groundstrokes that left the 11-time champion with no answer.

Lacking the free points from the initial shot despite the fact he landed 75% of the first serve in, Nadal had to work hard all the time and had no energy to overpower the opponent who did everything right on the court from start to finish. Charging in his service games in the opener, Dominic gave away only six points and kept the pressure on Nadal, opening a 3-2 advantage after Rafa’s costly double fault and securing the opener with a forehand winner at 5-4 in just under an hour. Like in the first set, Dominic earned a break in the second set’s fifth game, gaining an even more significant boost and thundering towards the finish line before that tenth game when he served for a peerless triumph. Suddenly, Nadal created three break chances that could have kept him in the encounter for a bit more, but Thiem was not to be denied, staying focused to save them and clinch five straight points for the place in the final where he would battle against Daniil Medvedev.

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