Aussie Jordan Thompson wins three-hour epic in upset over comeback man Rafael Nadal
Jordan Thompson has saved three match points before turning the tables to beat the returning Rafael Nadal in a late-night Brisbane International quarter-final classic.
The Australian prevailed 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in a Friday night battle that stretched three hours and 25 minutes and finished just shy of midnight.
Thompson came back from the brink in the second set before controlling the third and sealing the match when Nadal over-shot his backhand to end the longest rally of the match.
The 29-year-old Sydney talent’s victory capped a banner week for Australia’s men after Alex de Minaur’s defeat of world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the United Cup on Wednesday.
Thompson’s task is to back up on Saturday night against Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in Sunday’s final against either top-seeded Dane Holger Rune or in-form Russian Roman Safiullin.
Nadal had been in imposing form on his return from a hip injury after nearly 12 months, beating former US Open champion Dominic Thiem and then Australian Jason Kubler in straight sets.
But, in his second match in as as many nights, the Spanish 37-year-old was undone by Thompson’s incisive return game and ability to find short angles, particularly off the backhand flank.
Nadal, who had hip surgery in June, felt at his upper left leg and left the court to receive treatment after going down 4-1 in the third set as the match ticked over three hours.
He could have sealed it by then, if not for two uncharacteristic errors on match points.
First he netted a backhand volley at 30-40 on Thompson’s serve in the 10th game, then pushed a regulation forehand wide at 6-4 in the tiebreak.
Thompson saved a third match point with a drilled cross-court forehand, then won two long rallies to pinch an 83-minute third set.
He secured the first break of the match too, only for Nadal to respond immediately and then pounce when Thompson double-faulted at 5-6.
It was Thompson who set the tone in the third set, with Nadal looking flat but the Australian remaining aggressive as he survived the acid test when serving for the match as the clock neared midnight.
Thompson boasts a win over then-world No.1 Andy Murray and he also beat world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, but he rated this one just as special.
“I completely forgot I saved match points,” he told his on-court interviewer.
“To beat Rafa at home in a quarter-final … couldn’t be happier.”
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Ranked 55 in the world, Thompson is set to return to the top 50 and could move into the top 40 if he wins the tournament.