Thiem Puts Out Felix's Fire
The fourth-round US Open clash between second seed Dominic Thiem and No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime received plenty of hype before they stepped on court. Once Thiem found his footing on Monday inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, the second seed extinguished any hopes of a classic battle.
Stepping inside the court to crank groundstroke winners and picking the right moments to finish points at the net, Thiem raced through 12 of the last 14 games to end Auger-Aliassime’s Grand Slam breakthrough with a 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 win. The Austrian advanced to his second quarter-final in New York and improved to 18-6 at this event.
"I was really nervous before the match. I knew that I was going to play against an amazing opponent," Thiem said on court after the match. "The second and third sets were 100 per cent the best sets so far in this overseas trip. I'm starting to find that mixture that I had in Australia, offence and defence, and putting a lot of returns in play. I'll try to bring that form with me to the next round."
Thiem began the tournament searching for form after a shocking opening-round defeat the previous week at the Western & Southern Open. Although his form was patchy at times throughout his first three rounds, the 27-year-old has improved with each match and produced the level of tennis against Auger-Aliassime that brought him inside the Top 3 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.
Standing between Thiem and his best US Open result is No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final earlier in the day by defeating Vasek Pospisil. Thiem leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0 and convincingly beat the Aussie in the first round of the 2017 US Open.
"I'm probably one of the oldest players in the field, which is a bit surreal to me," Thiem said. "He's a bit like Felix, absolute superstar [and] up-and-coming. It doesn't matter if the Big Three are here or not. Everybody wants their hands on the trophy."
Thiem and Auger-Aliassime struggled for form in the early stages of the match. The Austrian secured a break at 2-2 in the opening set, but played a nervy game serving for the set at 5-4 and gifted the break back with a pair of baseline errors. He regrouped in the tie-break and earned a mini-break at 2/1 with a down-the-line backhand winner, holding that slight advantage to take an early lead.
Auger-Aliassime advanced into the second week by bullying opponents with his serve and forehand, utilising those weapons for one-two punches in rallies. But when Thiem’s foot speed prevented him from doing that, the 20-year-old lacked the consistency in his powerful groundstrokes to win extended baseline rallies. He attempted to move forward in a bid to shorten points, but struggled with his volleys and won just eight of 22 net points.
As Thiem’s form improved with each game, Auger-Aliassime continued to leak unforced errors and hit 51 on the day. A backhand winner secured Thiem’s fifth break of the match and wrapped up play after two hours and six minutes.