There is a certain reason why the adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, has survived the test of time – it has been proved multiple times over centuries. After Thiem had won the second set 7-5 to level thing, Nadal had turned into his vintage self the world once knew him.
The idea of a creature evolving to its absolute best when its survival is questioned was first taught to me in the animated series Digimon. The monsters there could forever remain in their basic form if left to their devices, but digivolved into mega-stages when they were tested to extreme conditions. Nadal was pretty much the same on Sunday. He has reached the best there could be on that surface and was largely unchallenged over the last few years as he kept winning without much ado. However, prodigious son Thiem was different and after he levelled the match by winning the second set 7-5, the Spaniard took a medical break to return.
And he returned metaphorically to his absolute best in the third set as he swept aside his Austrian opponent in the first three games before the rally took place on the fourth one. Nadal’s serve was at the ad court and a persistent Thiem returned the ball with a down the line backhand straight at Nadal.
Aiming to stretch his opponent to the maximum, Nadal’s backhand saw the ball racing to the right although it couldn’t create the angle he wanted to. Thiem, as a result, looked in prime position to win the point as Nadal was already unbalanced but the Spaniard somehow managed to return that with a slide stretch.
The next shot could have easily been the winner, and in other cases, it should have been. But there is a reason Court Phillipe-Carter has been Nadal’s fortress, he just doesn’t seem to lose anything whatsoever. The Spaniard contorted his body unrealistically as he caught the glancing shot from escaping past him while he was rushing up.
It was this unflinching will that mellowed Thiem down and his next shot was loose one. The Spanish veteran was seemingly half expecting it and quite astonishingly managed to reach it. His outstretched left hand created a backspin that saw the ball drop into Thiem’s court and almost bounced back to Nadal’s. Thiem, though ran to get a touch on it, knew that he still had a long way to go to own the surface but for now he had to look at the King of Clay and give him a thumbs up.