Thiem won 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 7-6 (8-6) to ensure Nadal will have to wait to win his 20th Grand Slam title after a superb battle in Melbourne
Dominic Thiem tamed “the demons in the head” and world No.1 Rafa Nadal in the latest late-night epic at the Australian Open.
And the Austrian will now face his fellow young gun Alex Zverev in Friday’s semi-final while the Spaniard will have to wait until the French Open to reach 20 Grand Slam titles.
In a replay of the last two Roland Garros finals, Thiem turned the tables after saving a set point in the first set and then winning all three tiebreaks.
Like Roger Federer in his quarter-final, Nadal clashed with a female umpire – France’s Aurélie Tourte – when he was given a time violation after a 19-shot rally. And the world No.5 was threatening to follow in the nervous footsteps of Tennys Sandgren when he failed to serve out the match at 5-4 and then wasted his first two match points.
Dominic Thiem celebrates his surprise victory (Image: AFP via Getty Images
But the Dominator avoided an unwanted hat-trick of misses when Nadal netted a forehand– and then admitted he had nearly bottled it at the end of a brilliant performance.
Thiem, who won 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6, said: “It was a special situation for me serving for the match against Rafa for my first Australian Open semi-final.
“It was a mentally tough situation and I couldn’t handle it – I really threw away that game with pretty stupid mistakes – but I turned it around in the tie-breaker. There are demons in the head, everyone has them. I was proud of the way I stayed in the match. It’s a very special victory for me.”
The Chelsea fan, who acted like Roman Abramovich by dumping his coach Thomas Muster after only one match here, has come closest to breaking the Big Three’s domination of the Majors.
“It’s still a very long way to go,” he warned. “The other semifinals is still two of the Big Three.”
Nadal surprisingly crashed out at the quarter-final stage (Image: REUTERS)
Nadal, who looked out-of-sorts before going out, said: “Of course I am sad but I lost against a great opponent. And he deserved it, too. Well done for him.”
Zverev restated his pledge to donate the Australian Open winner’s prize to Bushfire Relief after beating Stan Wawrinka 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-2. and joked: “Easy to say in the first round, right?”
The German world No.7 is now two wins from his first Grand Slam title and giving away A$4.12m (£2.15m) to charity.
His five wins here will already see him donate A$50,000 to Bushfire Relief.
But Zverev, who had never reached a semi-final in his previous 21 Grand Slam appearances, went further after his opening win and promised to also give the winner’s cheque.