Jordan Thompson
Jordan Thompson celebrates his epic triumph over Rafael Nadal in the Brisbane International. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Aussie Thompson wins epic against comeback man Nadal

Murray Wenzel January 6, 2024

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.

Nadal, who took an injury timeout to treat soreness in the same hip that required career-saving surgery last year, walked to Thompson’s side of the net and embraced the Australian.

“He was one of my idols growing up” Thompson said. 

“I loved Lleyton (Hewitt), loved Andy Murray, loved Rafa.

“It was special to share the court again and to take him down was a whole other feeling.”

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.

“Unreal. Aussies in Australia playing good tennis, taking down good names, got to be good for the country,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s task is to back up on Saturday night against second seed and former world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov for a spot in Sunday’s final against either top-seeded Dane Holger Rune or in-form Russian Roman Safiullin.

 Rafael Nadal was outstayed by his dogged Australian opponent in their Brisbane classic. Image by Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS 

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.

Thompson boasts a win over then-world No.1 Murray and he also beat world No.3 Stefanos Tsitsipas last year, but he rated this one just as special.

“Obviously the’s one of the best of all-time but there’s always a sense of pressure playing at home,” Thompson said.

“He can destroy opponents so there’s always that element that can make you nervous.

“You’ve got to take it to him. 

“There’s no point in walking on the court thinking you can’t win. I played him at the French Open and that’s exactly what it felt like.”

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, a shot the Australian conceded Nadal would make “nine times out of ten”.

Thompson saved a third match point with a drilled cross-court forehand, then relied on his own brilliant shot-making to win two long rallies and pinch an 83-minute second set.

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.