Thiem Celebrates “Thiemstag” With A Comeback Victory In Vienna

Dominic Thiem (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer)

VIENNA/WASHINGTON, October 25, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Thiemstag, a German wordplay on Tuesday, has become an Erste Bank Open tradition featuring Austria’s favorite tennis son and champion Dominic Thiem. Coming back to Vienna is one of the Austrian’s favorite tournaments of the year – and in 2019 he was crowned its champion, the fourth player from the home country to win the title in the event’s four-decade-plus history.

On Tuesday evening, the Austrian capital city welcomed Thiem back to Wiener Stadthalle and gave him a warm ovation as he walked out on court. Thiem returned the favor by not only entertaining his fans but also by winning his first-round match against No. 30 Tommy Paul of the United States, 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6), that lasted two hours and 55 minutes and kept the near-capacity crowd riveted on the action from first ball to last ball.

Thiem, who was one of the best players in the world for several years – a former US Open champion – before a a right wrist tear injury set him back, showed he still has the right stuff to win on the ATP Tour. His 18th Tour victory, which advanced  him into the second round against either No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev or Nikoloz Basilashvili, who play Wednesday, must surely rank up there among his most exciting triumphs. Thiem did it the hard way, but he lives to play on another day in Vienna.

“I would have been nothing without the crowd today,” Thiem said, addressing the crowd in German (translated into English) during his on-court interview.

Paul, who was named Monday to the U.S. team for next month’s Davis Cup Finals, stormed out to a quick 4-0 lead behind a slew of impressive winners coupled with four costly unforced errors by Thiem. The athletic and agile American won 16 of the first 20 points of the first-round match and 26 of 37 by the end of the set. Soon, after falling behind a double break, Thiem finally got on track in his third service game with a hold that brought plenty of applause from the Austrian faithful. However, he was unable to crack through his opponent during any of his return games and Paul won the opening set 6-2 in a swift 26 minutes.

During the 74-minute the second set, Thiem fought off two break points during a 16-point hold to lead 2-1. Then, he saved another to hold 3-2 as the match reached the one-hour mark. With neither competitor able to secure a service break, Thiem and Paul played a tie-break. It was a matter of survival for the Austrian No. 1, who went to work and gained a trio of mini-breaks to lead 5-1. On his second set point, Thiem put away the tie-break 7-2 through will power and determination. He found his way back into the match by scoring points on the shots that worked best for him – namely, his beautiful one-fisted backhand.

Soon, Thiem dug himself into a 3-0 hole at the outset of the final set, broken at love in the second game. Then, down 1-4, he had to fight off a break point to eke out a hold. The partisan fans did everything they could to throw their support behind Thiem, but Paul blocked out the noise. With another focused love hold, he pushed ahead 5-2 with the finish line coming into focus.

A game later, though – and with nothing to lose – Thiem got the biggest break of the match. It was his first one, too, but it got him back on serve. He won a grueling rally with a one-fisted backhand winner that hugged the baseline, then broke with a cross-court forehand winner that capped a 14-shot tug-of-war. In the next game, Thiem drew even at 5-all with a hold at 15 as he rolled back the years. Suddenly, it was game on and Thiem continued to hit plenty of scintillating shots. After Paul held for 6-5, Thiem rose to the occasion and held at 30 with a ace out wide – his eighth of the match – to send it to a decisive tie-break, winner take all.

After Thiem jumped ahead 3-0, Paul reeled the Austrian back and leveled it. Next, Thiem pushed ahead 4-3 with a solid serve that Paul netted with a backhand return. Paul held twice and pulled ahead 5-4 after Thiem missed long with a forehand push from near the net. He was broken on the next point after he double-faulted for the eighth time. However, Thiem wasn’t ready to give up. Instead, he saved a pair of match points to pull even at 6-all. By this time, many in the Wiener Stadthalle were on their feet applauding the 29-year-old Thiem from nearby Wiener Neustadt, who has been a fixture in the Vienna tournament nearly every year since 2010.

Finally, Thiem won the final two points of the match, putting away the victory on his first match point after Paul struck a long return. The winner fell to the ground in shock. Then, he quickly picked himself up and leaped in the air and celebrated with a clenched fist plus a huge smile on his face.

Looking back, both players put on quite a show. Thiem finished with 40 winners to 28 unforced errors, while Paul countered with 31 winners and made 22 unforced errors. Paul outpointed Thiem 112-103. In the end, it didn’t matter. Thiem, who improved to 7-2 for the month of October, won with his heart and his racquet.

Around the Erste Bank Open

• Great Britain’s Daniel Evans rallied from 2-5 down in the second set to defeat No. 54 Oscar Otte of Germany, 6-4, 7-6 (3). The 26th-ranked Evans, a 2020 semifinalist in Vienna, overcame 17 aces and 32 winners by his opponent. He won on his first match point with a forehand winner – his 33rd winner of the contest – to advance against No. 18 Karen Khachanov of Russia.

• No. 32 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria needed just 74 minutes to beat No. 66 Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, 6-3, 6-4, to move into the second round against No. 3 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia. The win over the Brazilian qualifier snapped a three-match losing streak going back to the second round of the US Open. Dimitrov, who did not face any break points on his serve, hit 10 aces and 24 winners and outpointed Monteiro 59-44.

• No. 43 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland advanced over No. 48 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, 6-2, 6-3, needing just 85 minutes to move into the second round in his Vienna debut. Ruusuvuori struck 19 winners, broke the 2020 Vienna finalist Sonego’s serve four times, and outpointed him 60-39. It was the third straight tournament and 12th overall this season that Sonego has been eliminated in his opening match. Next, Ruusuvuori will face World No. 11 and fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who fired 28 aces and hit 48 winners to beat World No. 17 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 6-3, in two hours and 21 minutes. Hurkacz outpointed Tiafoe 111-102 in earning his 39th victory of the 2022 season.

• It took four match points but World No. 19 Denis Shapovalov of Canada finally put away 130th-ranked Austrian wild card Jurij Rodionov with a fifth-shot forehand winner to prevail 6-4, 6-4. Shapovalov’s 25th winner came at the conclusion of the one-hour, 40-minute match as he overcame 24 unforced errors. In a lengthy 14-point final game, the Canadian No. 2 saved four break points before securing his 29th win of the season. Next, Shapovalov will face World No. 10 and fourth seed Taylor Fritz in the second round Wednesday evening.

• No. 7 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain rallied from a set down to beat 55th-ranked lucky loser Pedro Cachin of Argentina, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (1). The World No. 13 struck 35 winners and withstood 19 aces by Cachin. It was Norrie’s 100th Tour victory since the start of 2021. Next, he will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between No. 71 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands and No. 58 Marcos Giron of the United States.

• Austrian wild cards Alexander Erler (ranked 75th) and Lucas Miedler (81st) pulled off an upset of Russian duo Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, 6-3, 7-6 (1) on Glaubandich Court to move into the quarterfinal round. Erler and Miedler, from Innsbruck and Tulln, respectively, combined to win 73 percent of their service points and outpointed their opponents 74-53. They will face Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, last year’s doubles champions, 14th-ranked Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah from Columbia, were upset by Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo and Maximo Gonzalez, 7-6 (4), 6-3, to move into the quarterfinal round.

Tuesday’s Erste Bank Open results

Wednesday’s Erste Bank Open order of play

Both of the tournament’s top seeds, No. 1, Daniil Medvedev and No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas, will be in action on Wednesday.

By the numbers

Great Britain’s Daniel Evans has earned a personal-best 28 tour-level wins in 2022, surpassing his 25 wins in 2021.

“Quotable …”

“I’ve felt so many good emotions like ‘Wow, I’m actually a sensitive person!’ I can be a sensitive person. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of good feelings. I’m a competitor and want to continue to play tournaments and do my best.”

– No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, on becoming a first-time father with the recent birth of his daughter. He said in a recent interview with ATP Media that fatherhood helped him find his sensitive side.