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Thiem powers way to victory

Nadal's run halted by Austrian

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Austria’s Dominic Thiem is congratulated by Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their Australian quarter-final in Melbourne. Pic: AP Photo

Austria’s Dominic Thiem is congratulated by Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their Australian quarter-final in Melbourne. Pic: AP Photo

AP

Austria’s Dominic Thiem is congratulated by Spain’s Rafael Nadal after winning their Australian quarter-final in Melbourne. Pic: AP Photo

Rafael Nadal praised Dominic Thiem after being muscled out of the Australian Open in the quarter-finals by a superb performance from the Austrian.

World number one Nadal had hoped to equal Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam singles titles, but that will have to wait after fifth seed Thiem powered his way to a 7-6 (3) 7-6 (4) 4-6 7-6 (6) victory to set up a clash with Alexander Zverev.

Zverev had joked of his rivals: "I'll have a cold glass of Coke sitting in my hotel room with my AC (air conditioning) hopefully watching them play for six hours."

It did not quite take that long but, after four hours and 10 minutes, it was Thiem who clinched another dramatic Melbourne encounter, joining Zverev in striking a much-needed blow for the 20-somethings against the old guard.

Nadal said: "It has been a very good match. He has been playing very well. Playing very aggressive, great shots. Even from difficult positions, he was able to produce amazing shots.

"I honestly didn't play a bad match. My attitude was great. Good, positive, fighting spirit all the time. I didn't give up in one moment during the whole match. I gave myself an opportunity until the last point.

"Of course I am sad. I lost an opportunity to be in the semi-finals of another grand slam. But I lost against a great opponent."

Thiem looked like he might have blown his chance when he played a horribly nervous game serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set but recovered impressively in the tie-break.

Nadal saved two match points, the second with a HawkEye challenge after a Thiem lob had been called in, but on the third the Spaniard netted a forehand.

Thiem said of the 5-4 game: "A special situation for me, serving for the match against Rafa. Such a really mentally tough situation. I couldn't handle it but I turned it round in the tie-breaker.

"I'm full of adrenaline, full of happy moments."

Thiem, beaten by Nadal in the last two French Open finals, had never reached the last eight here before but, if he can maintain this form, he will have a good chance of winning a first grand slam title.

Nadal would have expected a fierce battle, having taken nearly five hours to see off Thiem in their only previous grand slam meeting on hard courts at the US Open in 2018.

The 26-year-old has improved significantly since then and he stunned Nadal time and again with his power, his court coverage and the way he was able to recover from seemingly desperate positions.

Thiem has surely never played better, yet Nadal will be hugely disappointed that he did not capitalise on leads he had in both the first two sets.