Murray Beats Thiem In Triumphant Return To Madrid

Andy Murray (photo: ATP Tour video)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 2, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Twice a Mutua Madrid Open champion, in 2008 and 2015, Andy Murray made his return to La Caja Mágica Monday evening – his first Madrid appearance in five years – a triumphant one against two-time finalist Dominic Thiem. After a trio of matches on Sunday, the Murray-Thiem match highlighted the first full day of play in the men’s draw. There was a total of 14 first-round men’s matches on Monday’s busy schedule, none better than Murray-Thiem.

Murray capitalized on a pair of service breaks, one in each set, and beat Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 42 minutes that was featured on Manolo Santana Stadium with the roof closed. It was Murray’s first victory on clay since 2017. He struck nine aces and hit 20 winners to 13 unforced errors and saved all three break points he faced – all of them in his opening service game of the second set. Thiem countered with 26 winners but committed 33 unforced errors, 24 of them on his forehand side. Murray outpointed Thiem 68-52.

Murray closed out his 11th win of 2022 – improving to 8-1 in first-round matches this season – on his first match point opportunity after Thiem netted a forehand return off of Murray’s serve. It was his 28th career victory in Madrid.

“I enjoyed [the victory],” Murray said in a TV interview after the match. “I prepared really hard before coming here. I worked hard and really wanted to give a good performance and I think I did that. … Tonight, I felt like I moved well and played a really good match.”

The 78th-ranked Murray accepted a wild card entry to play his first clay court tournament since Roland Garros in 2020. The Briton brought a 2-2 head-to-head record against No. 91 Thiem into their latest tussle and was looking to garner his 221st Masters 1000 victory of his career.

Meanwhile, Thiem, who dropped to 0-3 this season, has been trying to get his season on track. He’s winless on the ATP Tour since defeating Marton Fucsovics nearly a year ago in Rome. Since returning from a right wrist injury suffered last June in Mallorca, the Austrian had lost back-to-back first-round matches in Belgrade and Estoril, both on clay, and now the loss to Murray is his latest setback.

Tuesday evening, Murray will play No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian outlasted 46th-ranked lucky loser Ugo Humbert of France, 7-6 (1), 6-3, in an hour and 56 minutes. Shapovalov, who hit 21 winners, outpointed Humbert 77-69.

Sinner outlasts Paul, gains 20th win of season

In Monday’s lead-off match on Manolo Santana Stadium, Italy’s Jannik Sinner collected his 20th victory of the 2022 season – but it didn’t come easy. The 10th seed came back from a set down against American Tommy Paul to win 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-3 in two hours and 59 minutes. The 20-year-old from South Tyrol saved three matches points during the second set – two of them while Paul served, ahead 5-3, in the ninth game and the last one on Sinner’s serve while trailing 6-5.

“It was a very difficult situation, of course,” Sinner said during an on-court interview afterward. “I was up in the first set 5-2, and then I lost it. He played a very good tie-break. I made a couple of unforced errors at the beginning, and the second set was kind of a roller coaster.

“Obviously, it was a tough match. I’m happy to be in the second round. Let’s see how the next match goes.”

Sinner joined Stefanos Tsitsipas, Carlos Alcaraz, Andrey Rublev, Miomir Kecmanovic, Rafael Nadal, Taylor Fritz and Diego Schwartzman as 20-match winners this season. He struck eight aces and hit 31 winners to 41 unforced errors. Paul collected 21 winners and made 37 unforced errors. Sinner converted three of 11 break points and outpointed Paul 120-109. He improved to 8-1 in three-set matches.

“I just try to stay focused on the present moment,” added Sinner, who wrapped up the first-round victory an hour and 14 minutes after Paul first gained a match point against him. “You cannot change anything in the past. Right now, I’m thinking more about my level, because I don’t think it was one of my best performances. So, I will try to raise it in the next round. But, obviously [I’m] happy to be through because it was a very difficult match, a difficult opponent.”

Next, Sinner will play No. 22 Alex de Minaur of Australia, who advanced with a 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3 win over No. 44 Pedro Martinez of Spain.

Around La Caja Mágica

• Monte-Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain defeated South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, 7-5, 6-3, to begin play on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium. The win by the Spaniard leveled their head-to-head at 1-all. The 29th-ranked Davidovich Fokina, who was ranked 20 places lower at Madrid last year, hit 14 winners and saved the only break point he faced from No. 38 Harris. He outpointed him 63-48 to advance against either No. 12 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland or 81st-ranked qualifier Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, who play Tuesday.

“Always, the first match is not easy. Having the crowd [cheering for you] is something special. I’m so happy for the win,” Davidovich Fokina said in an on-court interview. “The first round is always a tough one. Now, I have to manage very good to continue with being less tired and be ready for the next round.”

• World No. 21 Gaël Monfils of France needed just 55 minutes to spoil the ATP Tour main draw debut of 20-year-old Spanish wild card Carlos Gimeno Valero, 6-3, 6-0. The 369th-ranked Gimeno Valero came in with a 7-7 record on the ATP Challenger Tour this season, with two quarterfinal results in Roseto Degli Abruzzi, Italy, and in Murcia, Spain. It was Monfils’ first clay-court match of the season and with the victory, he advanced to face World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic in the second round on Tuesday.

• Other Monday first-round winners: No. 9 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain defeated 73rd-ranked qualifier Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea, 7-5, 7-5, in his Madrid debut; No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, beat 62nd-ranked French qualifier Benoit Paire, 7-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1; and 77th-ranked qualifier Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, advanced over No. 264 Borna Coric of Croatia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Also, No. 27 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia bested No. 51 Fabio Fognini of Italy, 7-5, 6-4; 63rd-ranked qualifier Lorenzo Musetti of Italy defeated No. 48 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5; 60th-ranked qualifier David Goffin of Belgium beat No. 34 Aslan Karatsev of Russia, 6-2, 7-5; No. 20 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria bested 64th-ranked qualifier Maxime Cressy of the United States, 6-2, 7-6 (4); and 174th-ranked French wild card Lucas Pouille defeated No. 26 Karen Khachanov of Russia, 6-3, 6-4.

Jabeur only Top 10-ranked player left in women’s draw

As the women’s round of 16 began on Monday, Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur was the only Top 10-ranked player remaining in the draw. In the first two rounds of the tournament spread over four days, six of the current Top 10 players entered in Madrid – World No. 2 Paula Badosa, No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 5 Maria Sakkari, No. 7 Karolina Pliskova, No. 8 Danielle Collins and No. 9 Garbiñe Muguruza – all went down to defeat.

The lower half of the draw were on court Monday, highlighted by matches featuring No. 8 seed Jabeur taking on No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic, who recently won the WTA 500 Charleston tournament on green clay, and No. 14 seed Coco Gauff against two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep.

First, the World No. 10 Jabeur endured a nearly-one hour rain delay and beat Bencic, a quarterfinalist last year, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, in an hour and 58 minutes for her first win against the Swiss star in three attempts. Bencic beat Jabeur in the same round at Madrid last year and last month for the title at Charleston. This time, the Tunisian fired nine aces and struck 39 winners against the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Jabeur broke Bencic four times in 11 tries and outpointed her 94-80.

“I came here to take my revenge,” Jabeur said during her on-court interview. “I wish I played like that in the final in Charleston, to be honest.

“Part of me is very proud of myself for coming today and getting the win. Belinda is such an amazing player and it’s very tough to play against her. I’m very happy with the level I showed today, and hopefully this level will continue for the rest of the tournament.”

Later, the 21st-ranked Halep set up a quarterfinal showdown with Jabeur following her 77-minute 6-4, 6-4 victory against Gauff. She rallied from a break down in the second set to pull out the straight-set victory. Halep won five straight games from 4-1 down to close out the win. It was her 30th career match victory in Madrid.

“I think I played very well in the first set,” Halep said in press. She outpointed Gauff 67-49. “When I stayed super focused at 4-all, that was really important … that was the difference.”

Also, 33rd-ranked American Amanda Anisimova and No. 45 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia reached the quarterfinals with their respective victories Monday evening. Anisimova beat No. 15 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-1, 6-4, for her 10th career Top 20 win, while Alexandrova needed three hours and four minutes to hold off  No. 77 Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, 6-7 (4), 6-0, 7-5, in a battle of qualifiers. Alexandrova finally won on her fifth match-point opportunity.

Monday’s Mutua Madrid Open ATP results

Monday’s Mutua Madrid Open WTA results

Tuesday’s Mutua Madrid Open order of play

By the numbers

Rafael Nadal is making his 19th consecutive Mutua Madrid Open appearance. He missed only the inaugural edition in 2002. Nadal won the first of his tournament-record five titles in 20015 after break into the Top 10 earlier that year. He’s remained in the Top 10 ever since, celebrating his 17thanniversary last week.

“Quotable …”

“For me to play in Spain is so exciting. You play in front of your people and the Spanish fans. It is my third year here playing in Madrid and it is always fun because you can feel the support and the energy the people can give you. After what I did in Monte Carlo, I have more confidence to play well and I will really enjoy it.”

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, during a pre-tournament interview with the ATP Tour website.