Hills ace Jordan Thompson could go down in the record books as the last player to defeat Rafael Nadal in Australia if the legendary Spaniard stays away after his latest injury.
Thompson, 29, stunned Nadal 5-7, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 in an epic quarterfinal of the Brisbane International last week, giving the Hills star his biggest scalp in his impressive tennis career.
Thompson, who has a string of big victories over the years, saved three match points in toppling Nadal, and leapt eight places in the world rankings to 47.
The former Oakhill College student (class of 2012) will be one of the local hopes at the Australian Open which starts on Sunday, January 14.
Nadal, who skipped most of 2023 after injuring his hip at the Australian Open, said he has a micro tear on a muscle and was going back to Spain for treatment.
“I think he (Thompson) played a good match,” Nadal said. “For me, it was not the best match, I had a lot of opportunities to win it. I need to accept that. After a year (of not playing), that’s normal.”
Thompson had never taken a set off the 22-Grand Slam winning Spaniard in their previous two encounters, saying it was amazing to defeat one of his idols.
“”That was something special,” Thompson said. “I forgot I saved match points but to beat Rafa in Brissy at home and it’s my first semifinal on a hardcourt, I couldn’t be happier.
“I completely forgot I saved match points. He was one of my idols growing up. I loved Lleyton (Hewitt), Andy Murray (he toppled Murray in 2017), loved Rafa. It was special to share the court again and to take him down was a whole other feeling.”
Thompson thanked the crowd for their support: “You guys got me through it…. That was something special.”
Thompson hit 47 winners against Nadal’s 38 with one less unforced error than his opponent’s 29.
Unfortunately, Thompson could not repeat his heroics in the semifinal where he was defeated by second seed and eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 7-5.
The right-handed Thompson is coached by Peter Luczak, and is one of the most talented and hard working Australians on the ATP Tour. Having started playing tennis aged four, his first coach was his Dad Stephen. He would have been a rugby league player if he hadn’t succeeded in tennis, which has so far earned him more than $5 million.
Thompson and fellow Australian Max Purcell also made it to the doubles semifinals of the Brisbane International, making it a near perfect warmup for the Australian Open.