INDIAN WELLS, March 18, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
On the day when the women’s singles final between Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu kept tennisdom agog with their highly intense and driven match up, Dominic Thiem turned another page in the book mapping his career. The Austrian defeated Roger Federer in the men’s singles final of the BNP Paribas Open in another three-setter to claim his first win in a Masters 1000 tournament.
Scheduled as it was after the women had played – in which the 18-year-old wild card Canadian overcame a tumultuous ride toward the end of the match – Thiem and Federer had to live up to the excitement that had already been generated. To that end, many perceived the men’s showdown to be slightly on the subdued side – although the two hour two minute-long encounter was not without its moments.
The first set seemed easy enough, even with Federer losing his serve at a crucial moment despite having gotten an early break in the proceedings.In hindsight, the fluctuations that looked like a brief wobble in the opening set marked the course of the rest of the match – even to the extent of determining its result.
Unlike Federer, neither Thiem’s level nor did his game-plan wavered. He hit the ball hard and furious, forcing his opponent to alter his tactics to try and put him on the backfoot. The problem for Federer, however, was no matter what he tried, he was outplayed by the younger player. The volatility in Federer’s level of play also sharply inconvenienced him. One aspect where this could be starkly seen was in his conversion of break points.
The Swiss converted just two of the 11 break points he had in the match. A couple of these 11 break points came about Federer’s way early in the second set. His failure to capitalise on them pivoted the set away from him decisively thereafter, with Thiem breaking Federer to level the match at a set apiece before squashing Federer’s hopes of a sixth title win in Indian Wells for the second year running.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) 18. März 2019
In his post-match address, Thiem downplayed his momentum. “For me, it’s unreal. I enjoyed every second of it. I had to get used to Roger’s game. In the first set, he was playing amazing. I was struggling a little bit, but I fought my way back into the match,” he said.
Under the watchful eye of Nicolas Massu, a new addition to his coaching team, look for Thiem to be competitive throughout the 2019 season. It’s been a year which so far has seen 19 different champions in 19 tournaments – and it could get even more interesting. Not so long ago, after Federer won his 100th title at the Dubai Open, the talks continued about the older guys still dominating the game. Will Indian Wells be the start of the breakthrough, or merely a small break before regularity as we have become used to will make yet another return?