Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters at the quarterfinal stage 10 days ago and admitted ahead of the ATP Finals on the indoor hard-court he struggles on, that his knees, which have caused him trouble throughout his career, were still "not ideal".
Having dominated a first set in which his opponent managed to get just 33 per cent of his first serves into play, Dimitrov should have won in straight sets.
Both players began the encounter hitting the ball crisply from the baseline but Thiem was the first to be broken in the sixth game of the match and Dimitrov maintained the advantage to close out the opening set without facing a single break point. I mean, I think there's a lot of components that are kind of coming together at some point.
The pair went head to head at the ATP Finals on Monday but it was not the one-handed backhand which determined the contest, more a nervousness at key moments which also seemed to stem back to the amateur days of the sport. "And especially here, of course, a little bit because of all the atmosphere, arena", Thiem said. He served under 50% and he needed more than that to avoid those break points he had to play against, but he had a chance to fight until the very end, breaking Grigor's serve in the 10th game of the final set, when Bulgarian served for the win.
Thiem, playing in London for the second consecutive year, saw his record drop to 2-1 against Dimitrov, whom he saved five match points to beat at the Madrid Open earlier this year.
"I think the best is yet to come.
I thought about my last match against John (Isner) in Paris", said Dimitrov, referring to another recent loss in which he wasted a match point. I was like, Not again, definitely not again.