Nadal downs Thiem in surprise exhibition

Ben McKay
Rafael Nadal plays an exhibition match against Dominic Thiem ahead of the Australian Open

World No.1 Rafael Nadal has tuned up for the Australian Open with an exhibition match win at Melbourne Park.

The Spaniard took on Dominic Thiem in a surprise clash on Margaret Court Arena on Friday.

They were all square after two sets, with Thiem winning a first-set tiebreak before Nadal hit his straps in the second set.

The Open's top seed broke Thiem twice in the second set for the only breaks of the match.

While the roof was closed, both men struggled in humid conditions and called off a third set in favour of a tiebreak.

Nadal overcame dogged resistance from the Austrian to win 10-8 in the much-needed hitout.

Thiem squibbed a simple overhead with the score at 8-8, allowing Nadal to close out the match.

It was Nadal's fifth tiebreak in three days at the venue, after he headlined the Tiebreak Tens event on Wednesday night.

Friday's unadvertised clash delighted the few punters that had made the journey to Melbourne Park to watch qualifying.

Qualifying is free to attend, but with no matches underway due to wet weather, the crowd quickly made their way to the show court.

They were richly rewarded, with fine hitting from two of the biggest names in the sport.