Escape Artist Pouille Claims Maiden Title In Metz
Pouille rallied from 0-4 down in the first set tie-break and cruised in the second to defeat top seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(5), 6-2 for his maiden ATP World Tour title in Metz. The 22 year old notched his fifth victory over a Top 10 opponent this year and a milestone 30th match win overall in 2016.
Pouille continues the recent trend of French champions in Metz, becoming the seventh homegrown winner in the past eight years. Gael Monfils won in 2009, followed by Gilles Simon in 2010 and '13 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011-12 and '15.
"I'm very happy with my week," said Pouille. "Winning a title is a big step, it's an objective I wanted to achieve this year. It was a well-played final. We both played at a high level."
Neither player flinched on serve in the early proceedings, with Pouille dropping just two points in his first five service games. After denying a trio of set points at 5-4, Thiem surged ahead in the ensuing tie-break, taking the first four points behind two mini-breaks. But Pouille held his nerve, reeling off seven of the next eight points to snatch the opener. A Thiem double fault at 5-5 handed him the decisive mini-break, which he would not relinquish.
The Frenchman continued to apply pressure in the second set, breaking immediately as Thiem sent a forehand long, and he would not look back. Pouille secured a second break for 5-2 and would convert his first match point after one hour and 19 minutes. He fired 27 winners in total and turned aside the lone break point faced. Pouille continued his strong play when coming forward, claiming 14 of 17 net points.
Both Pouille and St. Petersburg Open champion Alexander Zverev represent the seventh and eighth first-time winners on the ATP World Tour this year. He is 1-1 in finals, following a defeat on the clay of Bucharest in April (l. to Verdasco).
Thiem, meanwhile, was bidding for his fifth title of the year. He falls to 0-2 in the FedEx ATP Head2Head against Pouille, having also been defeated in straight sets at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2015. Making his debut appearance in Metz, the Austrian maintains his strong footing in the Emirates ATP Race To London despite the loss. He is currently in seventh place, fewer than 200 points behind Gael Monfils.
"I think the first set was a pretty high level from both of us," said Thiem. "I should have won the tie-break, but had an easy volley mistake. All in all, he was the better player and had more chances in my service games. He deserved to win today. I think he put pressure on me all the time and was serving really well.
"He's had an amazing year, reaching the quarter-finals in the last two Grand Slam and semis in the Masters 1000 in Rome. I think we will see him in the Top 10 soon."