Dominic Thiem was thrilled with his straight sets win over Rafael Nadal at the ATP Finals on Tuesday but admitted it’s a ‘little bit easier’ to beat him on hard courts rather than clay.
Thiem was at his brilliant best in a frantic 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-4) win over the world No. 2 from Spain.
He hit 37 winners in a spectacular tussle that lasted two hours and 25 minutes and he was ‘super happy’ with how his backhand down the line performed.
US Open champion Thiem, who will qualify for the semi-finals if Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Andrey Rublev on Tuesday night, admitted that the shot is tougher to pull off against Nadal on a clay court due to the heavy topspin that the 20-time Grand Slam champion possesses.
But on a hard court, Thiem thinks it’s a ‘little bit easier’ to get rewards against Nadal by striking it down the line off that wing.
‘I practised that shot so much during the time off before the season was starting again. So I’m super happy with the way it worked out,’ Thiem said of his one-handed backhand down the line.
‘But I think that’s the only thing which is a little bit easier against Rafa on hard court or on faster surfaces where the bounce is not that high, because on clay it’s impossible against him to do that shot. I mean, his topspin is way too aggressive.
‘But here it’s faster. It’s not bouncing that high. So I knew that if I want to have a chance, this shot has to go in, the backhand down the line, if I take it early. Luckily it worked out well today.’
It was a match Thiem won’t forget in a hurry.
He hailed it as one of the finest performances of his career and believes his level exceeded any display he’d put in at the US Open where he won his first major title this year.
‘Honestly, I think that today I played a little bit higher level than at the US Open and was maybe the best match for me since the restart of the tour. That makes me super happy,’ said Thiem.
‘I mean, obviously it was not easy to come back after US Open and French Open. I was like on unbelievable emotional state and everything. Then also the home tournament in Vienna a little injury, so that was not easy.
‘But now I’m 100% recovered. I had a great preparation, as well, for London, so I’m super happy with the way I’m playing here.
He added: ‘ Indoors and hard courts, it was probably one of the better matches I have ever played. It came very close to last year’s match against Novak here. Also second-group match, which is probably the best three-setter I have ever played.
‘And as I say, today came very close to that match, and, yeah, now the goal is to enjoy this victory and to maintain that level until Thursday.’
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