Trailing Behind The Big Four, Dominic Thiem Aims To Rise With New Strategy - UBITENNIS
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Trailing Behind The Big Four, Dominic Thiem Aims To Rise With New Strategy

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Dominic Thiem (zimbio.com)

In this week’s Emirates ATP Rankings, Dominic Thiem finds himself leading the future generation of men’s tennis.

At a career-best rank of seventh in the world, the Austrian in the highest ranked player under the age of 27. He is also the highest ranked player yet to win a grand slam, which has been largely dominated by the ‘Big Four’ contingent over the past decade. Thiem has been tipped as a future star by many. At the age of 23, he is already a two-time French Open semifinalist with eight ATP titles to his name.

Alongside with other players such as world No.8 Alexander Zverev, it is hoped that the developing generation will fill the void once the era of the big four comes to an end. Although Thiem admits that he has a long way to go.

“We still have to win a lot of matches to deserve to be called the next big things in tennis,” Thiem said on Monday. “It’s nice to hear that but I think it’s still a pretty long ways for both of us.”

This season the 23-year-old has already defeated three members of the big four. Roger Federer is the only exception. Recently Novak Djokovic pulled a curtain on his season due to injury problems. However small, cracks are starting to show at the top of the game for the younger players to shine through. Illustrated by Zverev’s run to his first Masters 1000 title in Rome.

“I think it’s getting better for the younger players since the past one or two years. There were some tournaments where we had a breakthrough against them — but to win a grand slam or a Masters 1000, you have to usually beat two big-four guys in a row, which is a very tough thing to achieve, and that’s why so little of other players have won the big titles.” Thiem said about the  rivalry with the quartet.

The North American plan

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Dedication has never been a problem for Thiem, who has already played 53 tour matches this season. Finding consistency is his achilles heel. After a strong performance on the European clay, he suffered two early exits on the grass-courts in Germany and Turkey. Then at Wimbledon he restored some pride in his grass campaign by reaching the fourth round.

Unlike previous years, Thiem has chosen to skip his home tournament in Kitzbuhel to play in Washington this week. Seeded first at the Citi Open, his objective is to lay down the foundations for a successful north American tour. Thiem is yet to contest an ATP final in the continent.

“The main priority is to find the good game, and it’s the start here of a very long trip. And I’m doing it for the first time, to come here to Washington, because I want to play a good hard-court swing. Previous years I was always coming from Europe, from clay, and it didn’t work out that well. I hope it works out well from the first week on.” Explained Thiem.

Thiem will start his campaign in Washington against Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland. He headlines a field featuring eight top 20 players, of which four are ranked inside the top 10. It will be a tough tournament for the top seed, who is maintaining an upbeat mentality.

“For us players, it’s not that great because we have tough matches ahead, but for the crowd it’s amazing. They are lucky they have such a strong field. But for the players it’s not that nice. They are all really tough matches.” He joked.

Thiem’s wins over the big four in 2017

Barcelona Open – defeated Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 (semi-finals)
Italian Open – defeated Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-3 (quarter-finals)
French Open – defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0, (quarter-finals)

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Daniil Medvedev Suffers Wimbledon Setback In Halle

Daniil Medvedev preparations for Wimbledon suffered a setback in Halle.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Daniil Medvedev has suffered a setback ahead of Wimbledon after he was beaten in the second round in Halle by Zhizhen Zhang.

The world number five entered Halle having lost in the fourth round of Roland Garros to Alex De Minaur.

Medvedev doesn’t have the best record on grass and that once again was the case in his 6-3 2-6 7-6(5) defeat to Zhang.

The third seed broke serve on more occasions than his Chinese opponent but ultimately lacked quality in the final set tiebreak.

After the match Zhang was happy with the way he handled the tiebreak, “A really tough match. Last time I lost a third-set tie-break [in Stuttgart last week]. And today again, a third-set tie-break. I was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s time. The perfect moment to get revenge’,” Zhang explained.

“I’m super happy that today I handled it to the end.”

Now Medvedev heads to Wimbledon, where he had his best result last year losing to Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile Zhang will now face Christopher Eubanks in the quarter-finals after the American knocked out defending champion Alexander Bublik.

The other quarter-final confirmed will see Arthur Fils taking on Alexander Zverev.

Zverev defeated Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 7-6(5) and said the following after his victory, “Extremely happy with my performance,” Zverev told the ATP website.

“I felt like it was good tennis and I’m happy to be in the quarters. I’m enjoying the moments on these beautiful courts, happy to be playing the way I am. Hopefully I can continue building, continue playing better.”

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Former Champion Ash Barty To Make Wimbledon Return In Invitational Doubles

Ash Barty is set to return to tennis at Wimbledon.

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Former Wimbledon champion Ash Barty will return to the tennis court at SW19.

The Australian hasn’t played tennis since announcing her retirement from the sport after winning the Australian Open in 2022.

Barty defeated Danielle Collins in the final and stunningly announced that she would retire from competitive tennis at 25 years old.

Since then the former world number one has had a child as well as competing in exhibition golf tournaments.

However, it now seems like Barty is ready to phase herself back into the tennis world as it has now been announced that she will return to Wimbledon to play the invitational doubles.

It’s unclear who her partner will be at this point but it will be the Australian’s first appearance at SW19 since winning the Wimbledon title in 2021.

Fans will be hoping that this could lead to a potential return to the tour just like Caroline Wozniacki did at last year’s Wimbledon before returning a few months later.

That does look unlikely though given Barty’s mindset and comfortability with her current lifestyle.

Furthermore, Barty will also be joining BBC’s punditry team for the actual Championships.

The main tournament will start on the first of July with the invitational doubles starting on Tuesday 9th of July.

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Andy Murray Retires against Thompson; Third Seed Dimitrov Also Out at Queens

Andy Murray suffered a heart-breaking exit. Taylor Fritz downs Raonic, while Rinky Hijikata also progresses to last eight.

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Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray retired after just five games against Australian Jordan Thompson with a back injury that has been niggling him for the last few weeks.

He had been trying his best to manage it, but ultimately succumbed to a loss of strength and coordination and control in his right leg.

The 37-year-old Scot has been on the tour for eighteen years and completed his 1,000th match in the round before, but it was evident during his warm up that something was off. He was not stretching up fully when practising serves, whilst also landed tentatively on his feet.

In fact, former five-time champion Murray looked in some difficulty even walking down the steps walking towards the court. “When I walked up the stairs before going out, and in the pre-match warm up, my back was uncomfortable,” said Murray in a BBC interview afterwards. “I don’t know exactly what the problem is. I hadn’t experienced that before. I have no idea how long it will take to get better and what the treatment options are.”

It was clear that Murray regretted choosing to play today. “The atmosphere was pretty awkward on court; everyone can see there is a problem I don’t know whether I should play or stop. It’s disappointing for the crowd and everyone who has paid to come and watch. In hindsight I wish I hadn’t gone out.”

The pair had met once before back in 2017, also at Queens. But Murray had won Wimbledon the year before; his body was seven years younger than now and far less battered and bruised. It remains to be seen whether the former world number one can be fit in time for this year’s Championships.

Meanwhile Sebastian Korda put in a gritty display to overcome an under-par Grigor Dimitrov in three tough sets 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

In a very even match with winners and unforced errors almost equal, it was former champion Dimitrov who was regularly under pressure in his service games and offered 14 breakpoints in total. He was behind in numerous baseline duels dropping the ball short many times, enabling Korda, who reached the semi-finals last year, to come in and attack first. The American was also very solid from the forecourt winning 73% at net, as well as winning 83% of points behind his first serve.

The third set looked like it was heading to a tie-break but Korda hit a razor-sharp forehand down the line winner at 30-30 in the final game before world number ten Dimitrov overcooked a forehand to hand the victory to his younger opponent.

“It was a big struggle,” said Korda on court afterwards. “We were both serving really well and holding serve and waiting for our chances. There weren’t many but the ones that came, we tried to get one.”

He downplayed his recent wrist injury and instead was grateful to be playing on the centre court grass: “it’s incredible to play at Queens, definitely one of my favourite tournaments to come to, everything is so amazing. I’m very happy with how it’s going so far. I am super happy. Hopefully I can keep playing some good tennis this week and leading into Wimbledon as well.”

In today’s opening match, qualifier Rinky Hijikata squeezed past Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 (7-0), 7-6 (9-7). While the Italian blasted 37 winners, Hijikata remarkably only offered five unforced errors throughout the two sets. The Australian cruised through the opening breaker without losing a point. However, the second set decider was far closer.

Hijikata squandered five match points and a 6-3 lead in the second set tie-break. A wild forehand miss meant the players crossed at six points each and another put him set point down. But he regrouped after a tremendous rally and won the final three points to reach the quarter finals on his debut at Queens.

“I was pretty nervous,” said Hijikata after the win. “I definitely made it tough for myself today but Matteo was coming up with some really good stuff under pressure and he is a quality player and pretty tricky to put away, but I’m glad to get through today. It’s pretty sweet playing on this court, so thank you to everyone for coming out today.”

Hijikata has been struggling for match wins of late and highlighted his resilience and also gave thanks to his coach: “It’s been a tricky couple of months but I’ve been trying to persevere and keep working hard with my coach, so a lot of the credit goes to him. It hasn’t been easy but a week like this makes it all worthwhile. I was looking forward to the grass swing for the last few months and I always love playing on this surface at a tournament like this, let’s see what I can do for the rest of the grass court season.”

In the last match of the day, American Taylor Fritz defeated Milos Raonic, who had smashed 47 aces in the round before, in straight sets 7-6 (7-5), 6-4. There were no breaks of serve in the first set, lasting 44 minutes, while fourth seed Fritz broke to go 5-4 up in the second and then served out a love game and faces Thompson for a place in the semi-finals.

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