Pella progresses at Stuttgart Open; Zverev to play Federer

Lynette Rowe
June 13, 2018

Another forehand victor from Nadal followed, and this time Thiem looked up toward his coach and yelled. He will overhaul Rafael Nadal at the top of the rankings if he reaches the final on Sunday. He began that quest Sunday, winning his record-extending 11th title on the clay at Roland Garros and 17th major overall with a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory over his spirited but ultimately vanquished challenger, Dominic Thiem.

"Physically, I enjoyed (it) more watching him on the couch", Thiem said with a smile.

"I never have been insane about all this kind of stuff", said Nadal. And I think it's a great place to come back to here in Stuttgart.

But only so much of a thrill. "I have ambition and passion for what I am doing". It was a final. "I gave everything I had, and I'm the loser of today".

That was about as disheartening as it got for the world number one.

"The good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay-court season", ATP quoted Nadal as saying.

"You can't be frustrated always if somebody has more money than you, if somebody has a bigger house than you, if somebody has more grand slams than you".

He has come close in Paris before, losing in the semifinals a year ago (to Nadal) and in 2016 (to Novak Djokovic). He is, after all, the only player to beat Nadal on red clay each of the past two seasons. The best bet is the under 2.5 sets.

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Until 4-all, 15-all in the opening set, to be precise. The Spaniard would save just one breakpoint on his way to the business end of the set, where Thiem - serving 5-4 down - reeled off four enforced errors in a row to hand Nadal the set. Anytime that Roger Federer graces the tennis court, it is a joy to watch and I am expecting the same for this game.

In a 10-minute second game of the second set, Thiem suffered more trauma.

"It's hard to explain because it becomes a little bit natural", he said at the press conference. "It was just awful misses", said Thiem. "And it was, for sure, not the turning point".

Thiem managed to break back, but it was the only blow he landed all afternoon.

Against many other opponents - maybe ANY other - Thiem would have made things interesting. When he first halted play, Nadal removed that tape, which he said let his circulation improve.

Fast-forward almost two decades and Nike have been on court with the soon-to-be 37-year-old for every one of his record 20 Grand Slam successes and back catalogue of other glories, becoming synonymous with a sporting great who boasts the same kind of commercial power as Michael Jordan and his Air Jordan shoe and David Beckham and his long-term association with adidas.

"We also went on vacation, we had a really nice time, the last three months went by in a flash, which shows that I was busy and I had a good time".

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