Nitto ATP Finals 2020: Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem Preview, Head-to-Head & Prediction

Published 11/17/2020, 12:16 AM EST
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 29: Dominic Thiem of Austria and Rafael Nadal of Spain embrace at the net following their Men’s Singles Quarterfinal match on day ten of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Continuing his bid to claim his first-ever ATP Nitto Finals, Rafael Nadal will square off against rival Dominic Thiem at the group stage. Nadal won his opening match against Andrey Rublev in straight sets and won a whopping 82% of the points on his first serve. After the Spaniard’s semifinal exit from Rolex Paris Masters, he has improved his returns considerably.

Thiem, on the other hand, had to dig deep to overcome the defending champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, to prevail in a tough three-set battle. Despite trailing 4-1 in the first-set tie-break, Thiem fought back to win the opening set. With the victory, Thiem avenged last year’s defeat at the hands of Tsitsipas in the finals of the season-ending championships.

Rafael Nadal vs Dominic Thiem head-to-head

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Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – Spain’s Rafael Nadal reacts during his group stage match against Russia’s Andrey Rublev REUTERS/Toby Melville

The duo has played against each other 14 times, with Nadal having a 9-5 edge in the rivalry. However, Thiem won their last encounter at the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open in an emphatic fashion. Notably, it will be the first time both heavyweights will lock horns in an indoor tournament.

Nadal vs Thiem prediction

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Despite not having an impressive record at indoor tournaments, Nadal has adjusted to the conditions well. The Roland Garros champion has been playing closer to the baseline to dictate the points with his big forehand. Nadal’s first serves consistently clocked over 120mph during his match against Rublev, which will pose an enormous threat to Thiem.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – Austria’s Dominic Thiem in action during his group stage match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

On the other side, Thiem will have to be proactive in his returns to reduce the effectiveness of Nadal’s serve. The US Open champion’s backhand is his greatest weapon, and he will aim to offset Nadal’s court position. However, Thiem doesn’t seem to be in his prime form, considering the Austrian just returned from an injury.

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Nadal’s aggressive gameplay is likely to get past Thiem, who will have to fire in all departments to have his chance. The showdown is expected to be a blockbuster and might feature some close tiebreakers.

Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in three sets.

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Kshitij Tayal

518 articles

Kshitij Tayal is a tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having played district-level tennis competitions, Kshitij is also a tenured journalist of the sport with over four years of experience. At EssentiallySports, he pens down some thought-provoking pieces on players and tournaments across the ATP and WTA.

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