World number one Rafael Nadal has been knocked out of the Australian Open after losing to Dominic Thiem in a thrilling quarter-final.
Two-time French Open finalist Thiem won two successive tie breaks to open up a 2-0 lead over Nadal, before the 2009 Australian Open champion bounced back to win the third set.
But Thiem was not to be denied a place in his first Grand Slam semi-final outside of Paris as he won the next set in yet another tie break to clinch a 7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 victory.
The 26-year-old will face Alexander Zverev in the semi-final after the German beat three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in four sets. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, with 36 majors between them, contest the other semi.
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Nadal and Thiem, dubbed the ‘King’ and ‘Prince of Clay’, have shared a number of thrilling matches at the French Open, but Nadal had outplayed his rival away from Paris.
But it was Thiem, currently ranked number five in the world, who went ahead in Melbourne on Wednesday, nicking a tight tie-break in the first set.
Nadal lost just one set on his run to the quarter-finals but in Thiem he faced an inspired opponent who consistently challenged his service games.
While Thiem edged another tie break to go 2-0 up, 19-time Grand Slam champion Nadal began to play his best tennis of the match as he broke for the first time on his way to winning the third.
The fourth set played out in a similar fashion to the first and second, with Thiem failing to serve out the match as Nadal took the quarter-final to another tie break.
The occasion appeared to be affecting Thiem, who saw two match points goes amiss, but he held his nerve to convert his third match point and knock out Nadal.
Reacting to the thrilling win, Thiem said: ‘It was a really tough situation mentally. There was some demons in my head but I’m very happy to come through the match.’
Three-time Australian Open champion Mats Willander, speaking to Eurosport, added: ‘Thiem’s game-plan was spot on and this win could change him so much in the Grand Slams.
‘Rafael is used to leaving Australian disappointed. He’s got 19 majors and the French Open is coming up – life is still great! He just got beaten by the better man today.’