Medvedev Marches On In Vienna After Dominating Thiem

Daniil Medvedev (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger)

VIENNA/WASHINGTON, October 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

With six of the top seven seeds remaining in contention at the Erste Bank Open – and all six in action on Thursday – at the start of the day, it was anyone’s guess how the quarterfinal lineup for the ATP 500 indoor hard-court event would shake out. However, by the end of the evening in Vienna, there was more clarity. Three seed seeds made the last eight and three did not.

Along the way, there were some exciting and entertaining matches. None more that the second match on Stadthalle’s Center Court pitting determined home country hero and 2019 Erste Bank Open champion Dominic Thiem, who was looking to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth straight time in the Austrian capital, against this year’s top seed and current World No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, who by all appearances has recovered very nicely from his recent adductor injury suffered at the Astana Open two weeks ago.

Medvedev, making his second appearance in Vienna, sought to match his 2020 quarterfinal run with a win. He brought a 30-10 win-loss record on hard courts this season into his second-round tussle, looking for his second title of the year. On the other side of the net, the crowd favorite Thiem saved two match points against American Tommy Paul on Tuesday that generated plenty of loud excitement and brought the Austrian fans to their feet at the conclusion of his 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6) triumph.

The 29-year-old Thiem, who went a futile 426 days without winning a match until July, following injuries to both his wrist and finger – then contracting COVID-19 – had plenty of incentive to do well. Besides wanting to halt a five-match losing streak against Top 10 opponents, he knew that a victory over Medvedev would lift him into the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings at No. 96. Throughout his recent appearances in Gijón, Antwerp and Vienna, he has shown a sense of calm determination which has paid off with a pair of semifinal finishes.

Unfortunately for Thiem, Medvedev came ready to play – with a berth in the Nitto ATP Finals dangling as his incentive – and won the battle 6-3, 6-3 to move on to Friday’s quarterfinal round against No. 6 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, who was a semifinalist in Vienna last year. Medvedev (42-15) is currently fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin and a deep run this week will aid in his quest to garner one of three remaining spots in the eight-player field for next month’s year-end finale.

After the victory, Medvedev said to ATP Tour media: “It was a tough match. One hour, 40, and you know when it’s one hour, 40 minutes, even if you win 6-3, 6-3, that was a tough match. It could have gone either way. At one moment in the match, I started to put a lot of pressure on his serve. I was serving good myself, so didn’t [give] him too many opportunities on my serve, and that was the key today I think.”

On serve at 3-all in the opening set, Thiem saved a trio of break points before opportunity was denied. He was broken by Medvedev on the fourth break point after double-faulting to cap a 16-point marathon. It gave Medvedev a 4-3 lead and he took advantage of the small opening by consolidating the break and breaking Thiem again to put away the 54-minute set 6-3. Despite outhitting the Russian (15 winners to 5) – and at times outplaying him – Thiem also committed more unforced errors (17-8), too.

“That was the first game in the match where I actually won the first point on his serve,” Medvedev said in his post-match interview. “Otherwise, it was 0-love for him all the time. So, a little bit tougher to break. And this game I managed to put pressure on him. He had two or three game points where I managed to bring him back to deuce, which is really important.”

In the second set, Medvedev broke Thiem on his first opportunity to go ahead 3-1 and consolidated it for a 4-1 lead by winning a 23-shot rally with a solid forehand – his 15th winner of the match. While the partisan crowd did its best to boost Thiem during his next service game, which he pulled out, the 26-year-old Medvedev blocked out the noise and stayed focused on the task of winning. Playing nearly flawless on his serve, he steadied the course to win the set 6-3 and put away the one hour, 38 minute win on his first match point to move on to his 10th quarterfinal of the year, while Thiem dropped to 16-10 lifetime in Vienna.

Afterward, Thiem, whose 2020 win-loss record fell to 18-16, said in press: “The first seven or eight games were really good. After that, I wasn’t able to keep the level an then you get a result like this.”

Thiem gave due credit to Medvedev, his fellow former US Open champion, saying: “His game is so unpleasant, he makes almost no mistakes and moves extremely well for a player of his size. Also, he hits the balls in a way you can do nothing with them.”

Medvedev finished with 19 winners to just 14 unforced errors, won 78 percent of his first-serve points, and converted three of six break points. He took advantage 24 unforced errors by Thiem, 19 of them from his forehand side. Medvedev outpointed Thiem 67-52.

Later, the World No. 12 Sinner took care of 29th-ranked Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, 7-5, 6-3, in an hour and 28 minutes for his 47th win of 2022. The 21-year-old Italian is through to his 10th quarterfinal this season. Thursday’s victory was his second win in three tries against Cerundolo, all this season. He outpointed his Argentine opponent 65-53 and overcame 19 unforced errors by hitting 11 winners, while converting four of five break points.

Around the Erste Bank Open

Grigor Dimitrov earned his 30th career Top 10 victory with a 6-3, 6-4 upset of No. 3 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia in 70 minutes that began Thursday play on Center Court. The 30th-ranked Bulgarian denied Rublev of a 13th quarterfinal or better appearance this season by striking 24 winners – two of them coming in his final service game – while winning 93 percent of his first-serve points. He converted three of six break-point opportunities and outpointed his opponent 60-43. Now into his fifth quarterfinal of 2022, the 31-year-old former World No. 3 has won two straight after breaking a three-match losing streak. In Friday’s quarterfinal round, Dimitrov will face No. 58 Marcos Giron of the United States.

• In his Vienna debut, the No. 58 Giron reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 upset of No. 7 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain on Glaubanich Court. The American hit 16 winners and converted all three of his break points against the World No. 13, who was denied in his attempt to reach his 13th quarterfinal of the season. Giron improved to 13-16 on hard courts this season with his second win in two days in the Austrian capital city.

• No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland went the distance to eliminate No. 43 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 17 minutes on Glaubanich Court. The World No. 11 reached his 10th quarterfinal of the season in back of firing 21 aces while hitting 41 winners. He outpointed his opponent 101 to 83. His win over the recent Stockholm semifinalist Ruusuvuori was his 40th of 2022, a personal best, and it kept his hopes alive of reaching the Nitto ATP Finals, where he is currently in ninth place in the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin.

• Next, Hurkacz will face the surprising No. 27 Borna Coric of Croatia, who rallied from a set down and a break down against No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and knocked out the World No. 5 from Greece, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4), in two hours and 43 minutes to wrap up second-round singles play.

Tsitsipas looked to add to his ATP Tour-leading 57 wins, while Coric was attempting to reach his fourth tour-level quarterfinal this season. With the victory, Coric now has gone 13-3 since winning the Western & Southern Open Masters 1000 event near Cincinnati in August, including two wins against Tsitsipas.

Coric secured victory on his first match point during the third-set tie-break with his ninth ace out wide that Tsitsipas was unable to get his racquet on. It was the 43rd winner overall for the Croatian, who overcame 33 unforced errors. Tsitsipas countered with 14 aces and 31 winners but also made 24 unforced erorrs. Coric outpointed Tsitsipas 103-99.

• In doubles, qualifiers Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, both of Belgium, advanced to the semifinal round with a 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over Great Britain’s Daniel Evans and John Peers of Australia despite being outpointed 65-59. They saved a match point during the match tie-break. The winners saved nine of 10 break points. Gille and Vliegen will face Austrian wild cards Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler, who beat Hurkacz and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, 7-6 (6), 6-4, behind a 91-percent first-serve efficiency.

Also, Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Andrés Molteni of Argentina, who earlier upset No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-7 (4), 10-8 win over Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands. The other semifinal berth will be decided on Friday when Robin Haase of the Netherlands and Philipp Oswald of Austria face Cerundolo and Maximo Gonzalez, both of Argentina.

Thursday’s Erste Bank Open results

Friday’s Erste Bank Open order of play

By the numbers

Before their second-round meeting Thursday, Dominic Thiem held a 3-2 edge in his career head-to-head against Medvedev. However, Medvedev won their most recent match after coming from a set down at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals title match in London. Before that, Thiem won their 2020 US Open semifinal in straight sets en route to capturing his first major title.

“Quotable …”

“I don’t get enough to break points against good players. It was just one today. Against Hurkacz (in Antwerp last week), I had to play two tie-breaks. That puts a lot of pressure on me when I’m serving.”

Dominic Thiem, speaking in press after losing to Daniil Medvedev on where he needs to improve in the future.