Thiem Seizes The Night With Kitzbühel Win

Dominic Thiem (photo: Brigitte Urban)

KITZBUHEL/WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Dominic Thiem proved that if you keep knocking on the door, eventually it will open. Indeed, opportunity knocked for the popular Austrian Tuesday evening.

At ease in Kitzbühel and headlining the ATP 250 Generali Open, his home-country tournament, Thiem earned himself a lengthy but rewarding 6-4, 6-2 victory over 157th-ranked Russian lucky loser Alexander Shevchenko.

On a summer evening when the threat rain stayed away from the Austrian Alps, Thiem entertained the sold-out Centre Court audience at Kitzbühel Tennis Center for an hour and 29 minutes. They would have stayed all night if that’s what it took for Thiem to win. However, the 199th-ranked Thiem, who secured a main-draw berth with a protected ranking, sent everyone home happy – except, arguably, Shevchenko. Give credit to the young Russian, who showed a lot of heart and determination.

The victory, which improved Thiem’s 2022 win-loss record on Tour to 6-8 – including 6-2 on clay over the past three tournaments since returning from a lengthy absence due to a right wrist injury – advanced Thiem to Wednesday’s second round against fellow Austrian Sebastian Ofner, who earlier upset No. 10 seed Richard Gasquet during the afternoon session on Centre Court.

“Definitely, it was physically a very tough match,” Thiem said during his on-court interview. “A lot of long rallies – sometimes, an amazing pace from both of us. I’m very happy with the way I started here in Kitzbühel. Obviously, the way I walked in with the atmosphere and all the memories … it gave me goosebumps. I’m very happy to be the winner tonight.” 

Thiem won the 52-minute opening set by winning 84 percent of his first-serve points while breaking Shevchenko in seventh game. Although it was the only break point that the 28-year-old former World No. 3 converted out of the 10 he earned during the opening set, Thiem applied plenty of pressure on the 21-year-old Russian, who was making both his Kitzbühel and ATP Tour main-draw debut.

Soon, Thiem gained a 5-2 double-break lead in the second set and very quickly had three match points on his serve at 40-0. He only needed two of them to close out the victory. Thiem won on a second-serve, 15-shot rally that brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation.

By the end, Thiem won 76 percent of his first-serve points, converted four of 13 break-point chances and outpointed Shevchenko 71-51.

While the victory provided Thiem with a solid building block to the start the week, the final result against Shevchenko was a step in the right direction for the popular Austrian champion.

Andujar rewarded for his fighting spirit

Spain’s Pablo Andujar overcame a double-break 0-4 deficit in the final set and pulled out a third-set tie-break victory over No. 9 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) to begin the day on Centre Court.

The 98th-ranked Andujar, who was 0-6 in Tour matches since winning a first-round match in Marrakech in early April, won his sixth career match at Kitzbühel. Now, he looks forward to adding to his 2011 and 2019 quarterfinal runs in the Austrian Alps.

Although Andujar was able to win only 66 percent of his first-serve points and double-faulted on his serve five times, he took advantage of five breaks of the No. 58 Sonego’s serve, including twice in the third set, and won on his second match point after striking a solid forehand winner. After mounting a semifinal run at the Generali Open in 2019, Sonego was eliminated in the opening round.

“It was very difficult, I think. Lorenzo was serving for the win [at 5-4 in the third set]. It was very close,” Andujar said during his on-court interview. “Ups and downs. It happens on clay courts. I’m really happy [I won].

“I kept believing. I kept fighting. I always try my best.”

The Kitzbühel crowd showed its appreciation for Andujar after he secured his first-round victory, and in exchange, the Spaniard did his best to express his thanks, saying “danke schoen.”

Next, Andujar will face 205th-ranked Austrian wild card Filip Misolic in Wednesday’s second round. Misolic won his first-round match over 215th-ranked lucky loser Daniel Dutra da Silva of Brazil on Monday.

Ofner brings down the house in Kitzbühel

Austrian Sebastian Ofner reset from a half-hour rain delay that prolonged the first set of his match against No. 10 seed Richard Gasquet. Once the weather settled down, the 235th-ranked Ofner went on to capture a satisfying and deserving 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over the 79th-ranked Gasquet in two hours and 32 minutes to move into the second round. It was his first tour-level win of the season and sixth career victory at Kitzbühel.

Gasquet, 36, who was playing in just his second Kitzbühel match in more than 20 years on the ATP Tour, started well but couldn’t sustain his one set lead against the 26-year-old Bruck an der Mur native. At 6-5 in the second set, Ofner broke Gasquet to win the middle set, then rallied from a break down at 2-4 in the final set. After he drew even at 4-all, Ofner became the steadier player down the stretch.

Ofner saved two break points to hold for 5-4. Then, after going up 6-5, he gained a match point after Gasquet sailed a forehand long. However, the Frenchman saved it after Ofner erred on the 22nd shot of the rally by netting a forehand return. Soon, Ofner gained a second match point with a drop volley winner that surprised everyone – especially Gasquet – but wasn’t able to convert it.

Next, Ofner gained a third match point after hitting a cross-court forehand winner but once again couldn’t seize the opportunity. A fourth match point came and – finally – Ofner put away the 10-minute, 14-point final game and won the match after Gasquet netted a backhand that killed a 17-shot rally. Ofner, who turned pro in 2015, brought the house down at Kitzbühel Tennis Center with his victory. He showed plenty of heart and desire and it brought to mind his 2017 Kitzbühel semifinal run.

Ofner’s good fortune earned him an encore Centre Court appearance. On Wednesday, he will play Dominic Thiem.

Around the Generali Open

• No. 7 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain withstood 12 aces from Nicolas Jarry and defeated the 112th-ranked Chilean wild card , 7-6 (4), 6-3. Martinez saved all six break points he faced and outpointed Jarry 72-62 to advance to the second round against No. 73 Federico Coria of Argentina.

• No. 176 Yannick Hanfmann of Germany advanced by retirement over 188th-ranked Austrian qualifier Gerald Melzer, ahead 6-4, 1-1. Melzer retired due to injury after 51 minutes. The 32-year-old Vienna native was suffering from problems in his upper right leg. Next, Hanfmann will face No. 6 seed Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, who drew a bye into the second round.

• No. 3 doubles seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, both of Germany, who have already won titles this year in Barcelona and Munich, advanced to the quarterfinal round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over the Spanish team of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Carlos Taberner. The Germans, who are two-time Roland-Garros champions, outpointed the Spaniards 62-35, in their Kitzbühel debut.

However, No. 4 seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, both of Belgium, were not as fortunate. The Belgians were upset by Austrian wild cards Jurij Rodionov and Neil Oberleitner, 6-4, 3-6, 11-9.

Tuesday’s Generali Open results

Wednesday’s Generali Open order of play

By the numbers

Austrian Gerald Melzer played in his first ATP Tour main draw match on Tuesday since 2018 at Bastad. There, he defeated Corentin Moutet in the first round, then lost to Richard Gasquet in the second round. This time, he was not so fortunate – retiring after just 51 minutes due to an injury to his upper right leg.

“Quotable …”

“A bitter day for us, there is no other way to put it. The cancellations hurt us extremely. But we can also look at a lot of positive things: There hasn’t been a quintet of Austrians in the main field of the Generali Open Kitzbühel for a long time.”

– Generali Open tournament director Alexander Antonitsch, commenting on the Sunday evening withdrawals of top seeds Casper Ruud (shoulder) and Matteo Berrettin (fatigue), which enabled five Austrian players to make the 28-player singles main draw. After the completion of the first round, four Austrians remained in chase for the title: Dominic Thiem, Sebastian Ofner, Jurij Rodionov and Filip Misolic.