GSTAAD/WASHINGTON, July 19, 2022 (by Michael. Dickens)
A week after earning his first ATP Tour win in 14 months, Dominic Thiem would not be denied in the Swiss Alps. On Tuesday afternoon, the former World No. 3 and 2015 Gstaad champion from Austria climbed his way to a hard-fought 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7) victory over No. 7 seed Hugo Gaston of France to reach the second round of the EFG Swiss Open.
The 274th-ranked Thiem’s victory over No. 59 Gaston on the red clay of Roy Emerson Arena was his third Tour win in two weeks following his return from a right wrist injury that sidelined him the second half of 2021 and caused him to struggle in the opening months of this year. Last week, Thiem began to show positive signs after beating Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland and World No. 19 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on clay in Bastad, Sweden en route to reaching the quarterfinals in Sweden.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 19, 2022
Fast forward, Thiem used a protected ranking to gain a main-draw berth in Gstaad and is making the most of his opportunity. However, as his match against Gaston showed, there’s still room for improvement. His 3-7 win-loss record since coming back to the Tour attests to this.
“Obviously, the first two sets was very one-sided, the first for Hugo and the second for me,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “Then, the third set, no breaks, so the tie-break decided the match. Tie-breaks in deciding sets are always somehow 50-50. It was so close. I’m very glad I got the win.”
Thiem was asked what changed after the first set that got him going in the right direction.
“I had some troubles getting used to the conditions. In the beginning, coming from Bastad, which is right next to the sea – and here we are – 1,050 meters [above sea level] – it took some time getting used to the conditions,” he said.
“Also, he played well. [He was a] finalist last year, so he gave me a lot of troubles. When I made the first break in the second set, from then on I loosened up a little bit. I started playing better and better and it paid off in the end.”
Gaston, a Gstaad finalist last year, jumped out to a double-break 5-0 lead and coasted to the opening set 6-1. Thiem struggled with his serve and, at first, it appeared his work was going to be over quickly. He placed only 50 percent of his first serves in play and garnered just 43 percent of his first-serve points. Thiem also double faulted twice and was outpointed 28-17.
Although Thiem broke Gaston to grab an early 3-1 lead in the second set, every game remained a bit of a challenge for him. However, the former World No. 3 from Austria maintained his focus and his service games improved – he held serve all four times. Thiem leveled the match at a set each,thanks to two breaks of Gaston.
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As the third set developed, both players remained on serve through the first 10 games. Gaston saved a break point to hold for 4-3 and Thiem countered with a solid love hold for 5-all. The crowd rewarded both players with steady applause after each point. Whatever frustration Gaston may have been experiencing was held in check, while Thiem was much more vocal and expressive throughout. After Gaston held at 30 with a forehand winner to go ahead 6-5, it was up to Thiem to rise to the occasion in order to send the first-round match to a third-set tie-break or go home disappointed.
Although Gaston jumped ahead 0-30, Thiem responded with three straight points, including his sixth ace for a 40-30 lead . Then, he held his serve to force a third-set tie-break.
At 2-all in the tie-break, Gaston jumped ahead 4-2 after taking advantage of a couple of return errors by Thiem. Soon, it was 5-3 Gaston, but Thiem kept it close and got the mini-break back with his seventh ace to tie the score at 5-all. Then, Thiem earned a match point at 6-5 with a cross-court backhand winner. However, Gaston countered with a backhand winner of his own that clipped the net. He gained a match point of his own at 7-6, but Thiem countered and gained his second match point at 8-7 after a couple of unreturned serves. Soon, Thiem won the tie-break 9-7 on Gaston’s serve after he struck a backhand down-the-line return that the Frenchman netted.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) July 19, 2022
After an hour and 59 minutes, Thiem had fought his way back to a satisfying victory, his third of the season, while it was Gaston’s fifth loss in nine clay-court matches this season. Both showed a huge amount of respect for each other at the net afterward.
Thiem finished with seven aces to offset five double faults. He won 72 percent of his first-serve points, a considerable improvement over the opening set, and converted two of six break points. He outpointed Gaston 86-82.
While Thiem can set his sights on Wednesday’s second round against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, his triumph over Gaston meant a great deal for him in his return to Gstaad.
“It’s so beautiful here, like Austria, with all the mountains,” Thiem said. “I really enjoy my time here, and this year it was perfect to come back. Because of the altitude and the conditions, I really like it here. I’m happy to be back and very happy to get another match.”
Winning brings back great memories for Gasquet
Richard Gasquet is 16 years removed from winning a title at Gstaad in 2006 and hasn’t been back to Roy Emerson Arena in over a decade. However, the 36-year-old Frenchman has always produced solid results in the Swiss Alps – winning 12 of 14 matches lifetime – and Tuesday’s 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 88 Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain advanced the 64th-ranked Gasquet into the second round against another former Gstaad champion, World No. 15 and second seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy.
“I have great memories playing here, I won the tournament many years ago,” Gasquet said during an on-court interview after notching his 15th win of the season. “It’s one of the best tournaments in the world. Gstaad is an incredible city. I’m very happy to come back. I want to play well. This was a good match for me. Tomorrow, I will play Berrettini. I have nothing to lose and I will try my best.”
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Although Gasquet’s last match on clay was 37 days ago, it’s still a surface he’s done well on – he’s 8-5 on clay this season – and his record in first-round ATP matches has been pretty solid the past three months. Against Carballes Baena, Gasquet struck eight aces and converted four of 13 break points, including on match point.
“I started slowly, but game after game I felt much better and I thought that was the key to the match,” said Gasquet, who outpointed Carballes Baena 81-68. “I tried to fight and keep my serve and that was important.”
Patience rewards Swiss wild card Ritschard
Alexander Ritschard, a 28-year-old wild card from Zürich, is one of three Swiss in the main draw this week at Gstaad. After thrice playing in qualifying at Gstaad, in 2012, 2013 and 2016 – and without ever reaching the draw – it was a nice surprise to see Ritschard rewarded for his patience. On Monday evening, Ritschard upset eighth seed João Sousa of Portugal, 6-3, 6-3, in 92 minutes on Roy Emerson Arena to advance to the second round.
The win was Ritschard’s first ATP Tour main draw victory and also his first success against a Top-100 opponent.
“[It’s] very special. I’m very happy with the result,” Ritschard said after advancing to the second round against Jaume Munar of Spain. “I just played my game, which is very aggressive. I was just brave enough to go for my shots.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 18, 2022
Around the EFG Swiss Open
• No. 6 seed Cristian Garin of Chile lost to 152nd-ranked qualifier Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 28 minutes. Hanfmann hit six aces, saved all seven break points he faced and outpointed the 70th-ranked Garin 73-58. Next, Hanfmann will oppose 118th-ranked Chilean qualifier Nicolas Jarry, who defeated No. 72 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil in three tie-break sets, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), that lasted three hours and nine minutes.
• Qualifier Elias Ymer of Sweden needed only 39 minutes to advance over No. 92 Benoit Paire of France. Ymer was ahead 6-2, 2-0 when Paire retired. The 131st-ranked Ymer improved to 4-0 in ATP 250 first-round matches and is 3-2 on clay this season. Next, Ymer will face No. 5 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain.
• No. 60 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy was upset by 115th-ranked Italian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas, 7-6 (5), 6-2. Next, Varillas will face No. 3 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
• No. 63 Jaume Munar defeated 81st-ranked Bernabe Zapata Miralles, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, in an all-Spanish match, to advance against 190th-ranked Swiss wild card Alexander Ritschard.
• In an all-Swiss battle between doubles partners, 19-year-old Dominic Stricker saved three second-set match points against Marc-Andrea Huesler and pulled out a 6-7 (2), 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory in two hours and 26 minutes on Roy Emerson Arena Tuesday evening. Stricker won five straight points during the 10th game of the second set to fight off elimination. It turned the match in his favor and he came on steady and strong in the final set.
The 180th-ranked Stricker struck 11 aces and won 78 percent of his first-serve points. He converted both of his break point chances against No. 99 Huesler and outpointed him 105-100. Next, Stricker will play No. 4 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
By the numbers
France’s Benoit Paire is winless in his last six matches and dropped to 1-10 on clay this season following his second-set retirement against Elias Ymer.
“The win felt very good and it was much needed. The ATP Challenger [Tour] event in Salzburg the week before was also a step in the right direction, with a win there and with a tight loss in the next round. I felt there was a big improvement compared to Roland-Garros and the other tournaments.
“Crucially, I was able to back it up in Bastad with two very good wins against two Top 50 opponents, so that was very good and amazing for my confidence. It is way more fun to win some matches and build some momentum and confidence, and that is exactly what I am going to take forward.”
– Former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem, interviewed by the ATP Tour website, on his recent match experiences coming into this week’s EFG Swiss Open in Gstaad.