No one had beaten Nadal on clay for almost a year, the last person was Dominic Thiem back in Rome but in Madrid the 50 consecutive sets won on a single surface came to an end as the world number one was put to the sword by the Austrian.
Dominic is so talented on the clay and we saw this as he took Rafa apart.
Getting time against Rafa on clay is super difficult but Thiem did it perfectly by playing it his own game. Rafa is the master at hitting those powerful and bouncy forehand and backhand strokes with top spin down the court and it gave him time.
Image Credit – Sky Sports
Thiem was doing this to Rafa and it meant the Spaniard could only hit a short return and this set Thiem up to back up into that inside-out forehand position you can see highlighted above and he’d then wait until the last moment before deciding to pull it down the line or cross court leaving Rafa on the back foot very quickly and once Thiem got into this position and used his forehand to take control.
This performance from Thiem was everything you could have wished for. It was well thought out and he gave absolutely everything to take this win, a win which firmly puts him in the bracket of Roland Garros contender and I think he should look at using these tactics in earlier rounds as you don’t want to be hanging around too long in early matches of a big tournament.
Obviously Thiem went onto lose the final to Zverev, I think his game plan wasn’t great. I would have liked to have seen him utilise the flat backhand down the line a bit more as the forehand against the two handed backhand of Zverev the German could afford to backhand and still be competitive.
I also do believe that physically it took it out of him having just come back from injury and has been very impressive!