Rafa Nadal is on the brink of another early exit from the Nitto ATP Finals after losing an O2 silent thriller to Dominic Thiem.
In the eerily empty 18,000-seat arena, the last two Grand Slam champions produced a stunning match to drive any crowd crazy before the US Open winner triumphed 7-6 7-6.
Nadal has won 20 Major titles but has never claimed his season-ending event – and this is the 34-year-old’s last chance in London. And the French Open winner must now beat defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in his last group match on Thursday to be sure of reaching the last four for the first time since 2015.
Nadal, who led 5-2 and then had two set points in the first tiebreak, said: “It was a great match of tennis decided by a few small details.
“Just well done to him. He played I think an amazing match, and I played well too. I’m happy with the way I played.
“I think my chances are bigger to have a very good result now than five days ago because the level of tennis, even if I lost today.”
Thiem beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic last year before losing to Tsitsipas in the final.
And now he has beaten Nadal in back-to-back matches for the first time following his victory in the Australian Open quarter-finals to show the reign of the Big Three is coming ever closer to an end.
“That was definitely one of the better matches I have played so far in my career,” said the Chelsea fan. “I think we both played great tennis.
“I think that today I played a little bit higher level than at the US Open and was maybe the best match for me since the restart of the tour.
“That makes me super happy. It was a great match which I will remember for a long time. the goal is to enjoy this victory and to maintain that level until Thursday.”