Although the top-seeded Spaniard broke Thiem’s serve seven times overall, the Austrian’s heavy groundstrokes also caused Nadal problems and he lost his own serve twice.
Nadal applauded Thiem as he left the court and was full of praise for his 20-year-old opponent.
“He was able to hit the ball very strong from the backhand and forehand,” Nadal said. “He has completely everything to become a champion.”
With Nadal serving at 5-1 in the first set, Thiem saved a set point with a backhand volley at the net, then forced a break point with a forehand winner into the right corner and won the game with a replica stroke on the next point.
Nadal sealed the second set with a forehand winner down the line, but Thiem broke him again and then held for a 3-1 lead in the third.
That prompted Nadal to step up a gear and he secured two consecutive breaks.
He converted his second match point when Thiem’s forehand looped out, and next faces either Leonardo Mayer of Argentina or Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Fifth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain, last year’s runner-up to Nadal, also advanced to the third round by beating Italy’s Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.
Ferrer broke Bolleli’s serve five times and saved all four break points he faced.
Seventh-seeded Andy Murray took on Marinko Matosevic later Thursday.
Also, 19th-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa beat Frenchman Axel Michon 6-2, 6-3, 6-2; American Donald Young won 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-3 against No. 26 Feliciano Lopez of Spain, and Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Former French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia advanced to the third round by beating Camila Giorgi of Italy 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Kuznetsova, seeded 27th, broke Giorgi’s serve four times and next faces either fifth-seeded Petra Kvitova or Marina Erakovic, who were playing later Thursday.
Sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, 15th-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, and No. 23 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic also advanced.
Jankovic won 7-5, 6-0 against Japan’s Kurumi Nara, Stephens won 6-1, 6-3 against Slovenia’s Polona Hercog, and Safarova beat Australia’s Casey Dellacqua 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands was leading 5-7, 6-4, 3-0 against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova when the Russian retired with back pains, and in Israel’s Julia Glushko won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 against No. 21 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
Bertens next plays Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa, who downed Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-4.
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