Dominic Thiem Hails Wildcard Gaston Following French Open Thriller - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem Hails Wildcard Gaston Following French Open Thriller

The second seed narrowly avoided a shock defeat to the world No.239 in Paris on Sunday.

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US Open champion Dominic Thiem survived a roller-coaster showdown against wildcard Hugo Gaston to seal a place in the quarter-finals of the French Open for a fifth consecutive year.

 

The second seed overcame a warrior-like fightback from the world No.239 to prevail 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, after more than three hours of pulsating action. Gaston, whose best tournament result prior to Roland Garros was reaching the semi-finals of a Challenger event, pushed the Austrian to his limit with repetitive use of the drop shot.  Despite the disparity in the rankings between the two, Thiem’s winners tally was overshadowed by Gaston who hit 59 to 30.

“I think it was an amazing match from both of us,” Thiem said afterwards. “Such good fighting qualities from him and I haven’t seen for a very long time a player with such a big touch with his hands.’
“His drop shots are from another planet. I was sprinting like 400 times to the net, all the credit to him. If he continues like this he is going to be a huge player.”

Initially it looked as if the match would be a one-sided Thiem victory as he eased to a two-set lead. However Roland Garros debutant Gaston refused to go away in what was an epic comeback that electrified the crowd on the premier court in Paris. In the end it would be a single break in the eigth game of the decider that would separate the two. A failed Gaston drop shot granted Thiem the break to move ahead 5-3 and serve the match out. A task he managed to achieve with the help of a body serve that his opponent returned into the net on match point. 

“I think I missed one break point at two sets to love up and four-all. It was an easy forehand mistake and from that point it changed a little bit,” Thiem reflected. “I was losing a bit of energy and Hugo was playing amazing with his drop shots. I couldn’t find a right answer to that.’
“Then in the fifth set I found a new energy and was playing good again. It was a great fight until the end. I am very lucky I made it through today.”

Overall Thiem won just 11 points more than the Frenchman (158-147) and crucially saved ten out of the 13 break points he faced. It is the tenth time he has won a five-set match in his career and second within as many months. At the US Open he came back from two sets down to defeat Alexander Zverev in the US Open final.

Thiem’s reward is a showdown with Diego Schwzrtzman who enjoyed a much smoother entry into the quarter-finals. The Argentine dismissed Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.

“It’s all about recovery now. I’ve had a tough past few weeks and today was three-and-a-half hours with a lot of sprinting and running,” the 27-year-old stated.
“Against Diego there are going to be some long rallies. I think he likes these conditions, a bit slower and not such a high bounce. I am looking forward to the match but it is going t be difficult.”

Thiem leads Schwzrtzman 6-2 in their head-to-head. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 5 Preview: Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas Fight to Advance

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Stefanos Tsitsipas looks to advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive year (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Dominic Thiem as the two players from Group London to qualify for Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Nadal narrowly lost an incredible encounter with Thiem on Tuesday, tying Rafa with Tsitsipas at a record of 1-1.  Stefanos scarcely survived a third set tiebreak two days ago against Andrey Rublev, who double faulted while holding a match point.  Both men will surely be a bit physically and emotionally drained as they walk onto court today.  Thursday’s other singles match is a dead rubber, as Thiem has already advanced with a 2-0 record, and Rublev has already been eliminated with an 0-2 record.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6)

Nadal has dominated their head-to-head 5-1, with Tsitsipas’ only victory coming at last year’s Madrid Masters on clay.  Their best match was also their most recent, which took place a year ago at this event.  In a near three-hour battle, Nadal prevailed 7-5 in the third.  The difference on that day was Stefanos’ inability to break Rafa’s serve, failing to even earn a break point in the match.  Nadal won an excellent 85% of first serve points.  But two days ago against Thiem, Rafa only served at 60% on his first serve, winning 69% of those points.  It will be crucial for Nadal to increase those percentages today.  Thus far this week, Rafa has been the better player.  Tsitsipas undoubtedly is feeling pressure to back up his championship run from 12 months ago.  In a matchup that has strongly favored Nadal, he should win today and advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2015.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Andrey Rublev (7)

A year ago, Thiem came into the fifth day of this tournament with a 2-0 record, having already qualified for the semifinals with consecutive victories over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  And in his final round-robin match, he lost in straight sets to ATP Finals debutante Matteo Berrettini, who had already been eliminated from semifinal contention.  Today, Dominic is in the same exact scenario, against an 0-2 tournament newbie in Andrey Rublev.  While this match will have no impact on which players advance, it could effect Thiem’s confidence going into this weekend.  Having come so close to winning this event last year, Dominic will surely be keen to avoid the same pitfall as last year, and aim to go undefeated in round-robin play.  And of course, Rublev will want to avoid an 0-3 run in his debut.  These two ball-sluggers have split their four previous meetings, with Andrey claiming the last two.  That includes a straight set victory just a few weeks ago in Vienna.  But I still like Thiem’s chances to prevail.  Compared to a year ago, the newly-minted Major champion is a more experienced and mature player, and I don’t think he’ll allow the same letdown to occur today.  Plus, Rublev must be a bit shaken by double faulting on match point just 48 hours ago.

Doubles Matches on Day 5:

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2) vs. Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (3).  The winning team will advance to the semifinals, while the losing team will be eliminated from the tournament.

Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (8).  Koolhof and Mektic have already qualified for the semifinals, while Kubot and Melo are 0-2 and ineligible for advancement.

Full order of play is here.

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