Rafael Nadal has been knocked out of the Australian Open by Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem in four sets 6-7,6-7,6-4, 6-7.
It was a close contest throughout with the Austrian shading several big moments and a few slices of net-cord-induced luck.
In what was a clash of contrasting headbands, Nadal and Thiem exchanged service games with relative ease through the first set. Thiem exerted more pressure on the serve of Nadal than the Spaniard did on the Austrian.
The Austrian gave Nadal a fright in the fifth game taking him to break-point before the Pearl of Manacor held. The eighth game of the opening set was when Nadal first really put pressure on Thiem's serve. After holding to love, Nadal then broke to love to apparently swing the opening set in a matter of eight points.
That wasn't the case, Thiem broke straight back and the set went to a tie break. The Austrian pressured Nadal's serve taking four of the seven points required to win the set when Nadal had the ball in his hand.
Early in the second set Thiem's service disintegrated, by the time Nadal a was a break on 4-2 up, The Austrian was down to a 33% first-serve success rate. Thiem held for 4-3 before being gifted a double-fault to break serve and level up the set.
The pressure was showing on Nadal who at the change of ends hit peak first world problems, as he complained about his personal air-conditioning unit not working. Thiem was cucumber cool, holding for a 6-5 lead. Another tiebreak followed.
Thiem blitzed into a 4-0 lead before the Spaniard fought back to 4-4, Thiem held for a one-point lead, before earning two set-points from a poor Nadal backhand.
The Austrian got lucky with a return hitting the net cord forcing a weak return from the 19-time Grand Slam winner. Unlike with his choice of hair-dye, Thiem made no mistake for a two-set lead.
The tension for both players increased in the third set, manifesting in different ways. Thiem made some errors and bad decisions, Nadal took his frustration out on the ball girls and air conditioning. Both players held service games until the top-seed led 5-4.
The Spaniard took an early 30-0 lead on Thiem's serve in the 10th game, before earning two set points. There was a poor serve at 15-40 and Nadal took advantage after a long rally on the Austrian's second serve, winning back a set. Thiem still led by two sets to one.
The highlight of the early stages of the fourth set came when the umpire caught the ball from an errant return like inspector gadget.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) January 29, 2020
The Spaniard had already been broken and Thiem held for a 3-1 lead in the set. The pair continued to hold serve until a brilliant call challenge by Thiem revealed he had hit the line with a return to make it 5-3, meaning he would serve for the match.
Nadal kept him honest to hold serve for 5-4, before battling to earn two break-points. Thiem was nervous. The Austrian saved the first point before the world number one broke serve off a long forehand return. The set went to another tiebreak.
Nadal defended a match point with the fifth seed smashing into the net at 6-4 in the tie-break. A brave leave was checked by hawkeye and it was level at 6-6.
Thiem had another match point at 7-6, the first service was poor, but the Austrian made no mistake off the second serve as Nadal sent a return into the net and his hopes of a 20th grand slam down the drain.
Alexander Zverev, who says he will donate the winnings to the bush-fire relief fun if he wins the tournament, awaits Thiem in the last four. The German reached the last four at a Grand Slam for the first time by beating 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka in four sets.