Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem to Renew Rivalry at US Open

The US Open is the Grand Slam venue where rivalries are often renewed and restored. This adage rings true as Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem will once again take the court to make history. Playing in their 11th head to head match, Nadal and Thiem look to punch their ticket to the Semifinals in the season’s final Grand Slam tournament.

“Dominic is a fantastic and powerful player. He’s a great guy. I have a very good relationship with him,” said Nadal. “I am happy for him that he’s in quarterfinals here. Last year he lost a very tough match against Del Potro so he deserves it.”

Nadal Faced With Difficult Tests at US Open

The defending US Open champion has not had the easiest path to the quarterfinals. After not dropping a set the first two rounds, Nadal faced a battle of attrition against up-and-coming Karen Khachanov in the third round. Playing in his longest match ever at the US Open in four hours and 23 minutes, the Spaniard survived in a four-set thriller 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), staving off the young Russian.

“I escaped a very tough situation,” Nadal stated, “so it’s a great thing.”

In his round of 16 match, the World #1 got into a powerful battle with Nikoloz Basilashvili that went four sets. Nadal converted 75% of his first serve points and 61 percent of his second serve points. In a match where 41 games were played, the superstar Spaniard only committed 19 unforced errors. Clearly, the physical nature of the previous match had no hindrance on Nadal’s game, as he was able to overcome the pesky Georgian Basilashvili.

“Two tough matches in a row,” stated Nadal. “I had big chances at the beginning, but he played fantastically. A lot of credit to him, hitting the ball very, very strong. I think I improved my level in the end. I found a way.”

Thiem Displays Tremendous Serving Against Anderson

Dominic Thiem has developed a reputation as a clay court specialist. Eight of Thiem’s ten career ATP Tour titles have come on the clay court surface. He made the French Open final this year.

But it was the Austrian’s Round of 16 contest against last year’s US Open finalist Kevin Anderson that showcased the potential he has on the hard court. From start to finish, Thiem showcased dominant serving and powerful returns on Anderson’s serve, to finally break the six-match losing streak against the South African.

In a match that only took 33 games to decide, Thiem went on to win 41 of 45 service points (91%) and converted 65% of his second serve points. In the last two matches, the Austrian has combined to generate 101 winners, winning 13 of his last 15 sets.

“First of all, I served really, really well today,” Thiem said. “Not the best percentage, but I almost made every point in the first serve game. So I didn’t face one break point, and I didn’t feel so much pressure on service games.”

Nadal & Thiem Take the Court for First Time at US Open

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are heading into this quarterfinal match at the US Open with a lot to prove. Nadal has a 7-3 record over Thiem and is trying to continue his stellar history at the US Open quarterfinals, where he has only lost once in seven appearances.

Thiem is trying to rewrite history against his Spanish rival. He will emulate his opponent by standing many feet behind the baseline to return the serve and then dictate the points with power and pace.

The remarkable reality is that in the ten matches Nadal and Thiem have played against each other, they have never competed on a hard court. The strategy going into these matches were to take into account the clay court, a surface where both the King of Clay and his heir apparent have dominated on. But now, it is uncharted territory as Nadal and Thiem will have to deal with each other’s games on a fast, hard court surface.

Both players respect each other’s success and recognize the difficult obstacle that needs to be overcome if they want to make the semifinals. Nadal has won 13 of his last 14 hard court matches and will be hard to beat. But Thiem serving the way he has the last two matches will make this contest a struggle and another survival test for both players.

“He’s a very powerful player, and, yeah, he knows how to play these kinds of matches,” Nadal said. “Yeah, I need to play my best match of the tournament if I want to keep having chances to stay in the tournament.”

”Nobody’s game really matches up well with his,” said Thiem. “That’s why Rafa is so unbelievably successful. No matter what, it’s always really tough to play against him. But I look forward to playing him on a hard court for the first time.”

Main Photo from Getty