Dominic Thiem kicked off the 2021 season as world no. 3. The Austrian did not play well in the first part of the season, and things became even worse for him following a nasty right ankle injury in Mallorca. Thiem stayed away from the court until March this year, making a slow return and losing the first seven matches to drop out from the top-300!
Thiem raised his level by the end of the season, reaching a couple of ATP semi-finals and standing on the verge of the top-100 ahead of 2023. Dominic should receive the Australian Open wild card, and he already announced an event he will play in February.
Dominic returns to Buenos Aires for the first time in four years, seeking his third title at the clay-court ATP 250 event. The Austrian went all the way on his debut in 2016, prevailing over Rafael Nadal in the semis and delivering another tight victory over Nicolas Almagro to celebrate the title.
Nadal was the defending champion in Buenos Aires, but it was not to be in one of his worst seasons. Rafa reached the semi-final and faced the young Austrian. Nadal and Thiem battled for two hours and 50 minutes, and the younger player prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 after fending off a match point!
Dominic grabbed five points more than Rafa, produced more substantial numbers behind the second serve and fended off four out of seven break chances. Rafa repelled five out of eight break points but fell on the last step and lost the match and the title.
They had a similar number of winners, and Nadal sprayed more unforced mistakes. The Spaniard forced many errors from the youngster but could not break his resistance in the decider after losing momentum.
Dominic Thiem will seek his third Buenos Aires title in two months.
Thiem had the advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, and there was nothing to separate them in the mid-range exchanges. Rafa built a minor lead in those rarely extended points with ten or more shots, which was insufficient to push him through.
Nadal grabbed a break in the encounter’s second game when Thiem sent a backhand long for a perfect start before spraying a forehand error in the next one to lose serve at 15. Serving at 3-3, Rafa landed a forehand winner to dismiss a break point.
He held after a service winner and wasted a break chance a few minutes later that could have sent him in front. Dominic grabbed a break at 4-4 thanks to the Spaniard’s backhand error and sealed the set with a service winner a few minutes later for 6-4.
The Austrian denied a break opportunity in the second set’s second game with an ace, and they served well until 3-3. Rafa repelled a break opportunity with a forehand down the line winner and stayed on the positive side.
Despite a 40-0 lead, Nadal needed two deuces to secure the ninth game before breaking Thiem to grab the set 6-4 and force a decider. The final set developed into an open war. It started with Dominic’s break in the first game thanks to Rafa’s backhand mistake.
The defending champion pulled it back in game four to level the score at 2-2 and increase the drama. The Spaniard held at love in games three and five, and Thiem was there to follow his pace after a service winner to lock the result at 3-3.
They both held at love in games seven and eight. Nadal moved 5-4 up when his rival sprayed a forehand error, forcing the youngster to serve to stay in the match. Playing against the match point, the Austrian fired a brave forehand winner to get out of jail.
He brought the game home after five deuces and survived the most challenging test. Leaving that game behind him, Rafa held at 15 to move in front again before Dominic brought the 12th game home at love to set the deciding tie break.
The Spaniard opened it with a double fault and found himself 3-0 down after the Austrian’s ace. Thiem clinched another mini-break for a 4-1 advantage and earned five match points with a smash winner at 5-1. Rafa erased three before Dominic converted the fourth to take the breaker 7-4 and celebrate one of his young career’s most notable victories.
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