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Top seed Nadal ousted by Thiem at Aussie Open

Top seed Nadal ousted by Thiem at Aussie Open

1:31 AM ETESPN News Services MELBOURNE, Australia — Outplayed at his own brand of physical tennis for much of the match, Rafael Nadal finally claimed a set to try to start a comeback against Dominic Thiem.Nadal marked the moment by hopping in a crouch at the baseline and vigorously pumping his right arm four times.Soon, though, he was back in trouble. And eventually, his bid to tie Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles by winning the Australian Open was over with a quarterfinal loss Wednesday to Thiem — a younger version of Nadal himself.Thiem’s 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over the top-seeded Nadal lasted 4 hours, 10 minutes because of so many lengthy, electrifying points and put the Austrian player in his fifth major semifinal.It is his first somewhere other than at the French Open, the place that is Nadal’s domain.Of more significance: The outcome ended Nadal’s career-best streak of making at least the semifinals at seven consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a span during which he earned three trophies to narrow his gap with Federer.The last time Nadal didn’t get to the final four at a major? Also at the Australian Open, where he also went out in the quarterfinals in 2018.The following year, Nadal finished as the runner-up to Novak Djokovic, marking his fourth defeat in a final at Melbourne Park since he won his lone title here in 2009. He has won two at Wimbledon, four at the US Open and 12 at the French Open.Thiem had been 0-5 against Nadal at the majors, including losses in the final at Roland Garros each of the past two years.But this one was different. The defining statistic: Thiem won exactly twice as many points that featured nine or more shots, 24-12.Thiem managed to hang in there with Nadal on physical baseline exchanges, trading groundstroke for groundstroke and picking the proper spots to move forward.Or to describe it another way: Thiem was out-Nadal-ing Nadal, the ultimate grinder who never met a point that was too long or too grueling.Now Thiem will play No. 7 Alexander Zverev on Friday for a berth in the title match.Zverev reached his first major semifinal anywhere by overcoming a terrible start Wednesday and putting together a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.The other men’s semifinal is Thursday, with defending champion Djokovic facing Federer for the 50th time.Zverev and Wawrinka, a dozen years older at 34, played on the steamiest afternoon of the tournament so far, with the temperature in the mid-80s Fahrenheit and no breeze.The Biorports contributed to this report.

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