© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Third seed Dominic Thiem beats John Isner for a place in the Madrid semi-finals.

Thiem Works Hard For Madrid Semi-final Spot

Austrian star to meet Zverev on Saturday

Dominic Thiem worked hard on Friday for a place in his fourth straight Mutua Madrid Open semi-final. The third-seeded Austrian found a way to beat John Isner of the United States 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 55 minutes.

Down a set, Thiem saved four break points at 2-2 in the second set and left it late in the decider, breaking Isner’s serve at 4-4 with a number of superb low returns. The 27-year-old, who is playing in his first tournament since the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in March, finished runner-up in Madrid in 2017 (l. to Nadal) and 2018 (l. to Zverev).

"I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve," said Thiem. "I was a little bit surprised by his return games. I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set]."

Thiem will now face fifth seed and 2018 titlist Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Caja Magica on Saturday. Thiem leads Zverev 8-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.

Isner got off to the best possible start, mixing up his game and being aggressive on return of serve to break Thiem in the second game, courtesy of a forehand half-volley winner. Isner could have made it 4-0 in the first set, but was unable to convert two break points, and completed the 31-minute opener with an ace. Isner, who had hit 89 aces in three matches heading into the quarter-finals, lost just three points on serve in the first set.

The momentum shifted in Thiem’s favour after the Austrian saved four break points at 2-2 in the second set. Thiem had not looked remotely close to breaking Isner’s serve, but with his groundstrokes beginning to fire, the third seed drew Isner to the net to break. The second set, which lasted 42 minutes, ended with Isner hitting a backhand wide.

At 4-4 the deciding set, Thiem stepped up, capitalising on a drop in Isner’s first-serve percentage to strike low returns to the American’s feet. Minutes later he completed his eighth win of the season.

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"John's serve is so tough to return and I had to find a good returning position," said Thiem. "Luckily, there is a lot of space here in Madrid. I used all of that and the break in the third [set] came at the right time."

Isner, who hit 18 aces and won 77 per cent of his first-service points (36/47) against Thiem, earned back-to-back third-set tie-break wins over Roberto Bautista Agut and Andrey Rublev to reach the Madrid quarter-finals.

100-MORE ACES IN A CLAY COURT TOURNAMENT (since 1991)
This is the third time that Isner has hit 100+ aces in a clay-court tournament.

Player Aces Tournament (Result)
Martin Verkerk (NED) 124 2003 Roland Garros (F)
John Isner (USA) 110 2014 Roland Garros (4R)
Michael Stich (GER) 108 1996 Roland Garros (F)
John Isner (USA) 107 2021 Mutua Madrid Open (QF)
John Isner (USA) 101 2017 Internazionali BNL d'Italia (SF)
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