Dominic Thiem earned a crucial victory at the Nitto ATP Finals on Tuesday, as he overcame Rafael Nadal 7-6(7), 7-6(4) at The O2 in London. 

In a meeting between the top two players in Group London 2020, Thiem saved two set points in a marathon 72-minute opener and held his nerve after failing to convert three consecutive match points at 5-4 in the second set. With his seventh win in nine matches against Top 10 players this year, Thiem is now 2-0 in round robin play and has boosted his chances of reaching the semi-finals in London for the second straight year.

Last year’s runner-up stepped inside the baseline and took his groundstrokes early to push Nadal behind the baseline and earn back-to-back wins against the World No. 2 for the first time. Five of the past six sets between Thiem and Nadal have required tie-breaks and the Austrian has won them all. In the Australian Open quarter-finals in January, Thiem outlasted Nadal 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6).

“I think it was a great match from the first to the last point,” said Thiem in an on-court interview. “I was pretty lucky to get that first set. I was 2/5 down in the tie-break. Against Rafa, it is nice to win the first set but he is still there 100 per cent from the first to the last point. I knew that maybe I had a slight advantage when I won the first set, but I still had to stay super focussed.”

Thiem will attempt to earn his 300th tour-level victory when he meets Andrey Rublev in his final round robin match on Thursday. The World No. 3 has lost his past two ATP Head2Head contests against the Russian, which includes a quarter-final loss at last month’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna.

Nadal, who defeated Andrey Rublev in straight sets on Sunday, drops to 1-1 in Group London 2020. The Spaniard will face reigning champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final round robin encounter on Thursday. Nadal was the only player to beat the Greek at this event last year. “Well done to Dominic. He played an amazing match, and I played well too,” said Nadal. “My feeling is not negative. I lost, but I had plenty of chances in the first set and then I was a break up in the second set… I’m happy with the way I played. I think my chances are bigger to have a very good result now than five days ago because the level of tennis, even if I lost today, for me is much higher.”

In the evening session, Tsitsipas and Rublev will both attempt to earn their first wins of the tournament. If Tsitsipas defeats Rublev, Theim will become the first player to qualify for the semi-finals.


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