Thiem upsets Nadal as Muguruza sets up Halep clash in Australian Open
Thursday, January 30th, 2020
Dominic Thiem stopped Rafael Nadal’s quest for his 20th Grand Slam singles title Wednesday, taking a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-6 (8-6) in a quarterfinal match that stretched past four hours.
Nadal needed a break late in the fourth set, trailing 5-4 after failing to hold in his second service game of the set.
Thiem faltered badly, with a couple of mishit shots and a double fault handing the game and the momentum to the top-ranked player in the world, who has won 19 majors but only one Australian Open.
A rattled Thiem failed to break back, but he regained his composure to hold his own serve and force the third tiebreaker of the match, both of which he had won.
The first five points of the tiebreaker went to the returner, giving Thiem a 3-2 edge. A highlight-reel rally, with Nadal scrambling to reach a drop shot, put Thiem up 4-2.
Thiem wound up with two match points but faltered on the first, allowing Nadal to serve to prolong the match.
Thiem scrambled to put a return high into the Melbourne sky, and the ball landed near the baseline. Nadal raised his hand and didn’t return the ball, but it was called in.
A replay showed Nadal was right, and the tiebreaker was tied at 6-6. But Thiem took care of Nadal’s next serve for another match point.
After a brief rally, Nadal put a return into the net, and Thiem advanced.
Earlier, Alexander Zverev, a 22-year-old from Germany, reached his first major semifinal by overcoming a terrible start Wednesday at Melbourne Park and putting together a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.
Zverev began 2020 with three consecutive losses, which meant he had plenty of problems — and plenty of time on his hands ahead of the Australian Open.
So he showed up early and got to work, spending up to seven hours a day practicing in the week before the decade’s first Grand Slam tournament.
That extra time paid off. So did a somewhat more relaxed attitude once this event began.
Unseeded Garbine Muguruza underlined her return to form by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time Wednesday, setting up a clash with fellow two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep.
The 26-year-old Spaniard, a former world number one, defeated Russia’s 30th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 in a hot and sunny Melbourne.
The other semi-final on Thursday sees top seed and home hope Ashleigh Barty face American 14th seed Sofia Kenin.
“Sometimes you don’t feel great but you’ve got to fight and stay there,” said Muguruza, now ranked 32 in the world, after reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final since Roland Garros in 2018. - AFP