Thiem Tames Karlovic's Serve To Reach Indian Wells QF
"I have so much respect from him because he's 40, still competing in the world class," Thiem said. "I was curious how it's going to be. [It] was the first match against him on the Tour, and I made two breaks in the right moment... I felt pretty confident on my own service games. That's what I transferred also to the return games after."
The seventh seed arrived in Indian Wells in far from his best form, owning a 3-4 record in 2019. But the World No. 8 has played impressive tennis through three matches, winning all six of his sets. Thiem will play 18th seed Gael Monfils.
Karlovic earned his first ATP Ranking points when 25-year-old Thiem was younger than four years old. But his experience was not enough against the Austrian, as Thiem did well to make the serve-and-volleying Karlovic play a lot of volleys from below the level of the net, giving himself the immediate advantage in many of the 6'11" right-hander's service points.
The key came on Thiem's first break point of the match, with Karlovic serving at 4-5, 15/40. Thiem stepped inside the baseline, taking a short swing on a backhand return on Karlovic's second serve, forcing the World No. 89 to hit a half volley, which he could not handle. Not only did that give Thiem the set, but also the momentum, and he never looked back.
Thiem was mostly unaffected by Karlovic's knifing backhand slice, using the time to run around his backhand and hit forehands, consistently firing precise and powerful passing shots. The Austrian lost just seven service points in the match, and he converted two of his four break chances to reach the last eight. Thiem arrived in the California desert 11 days before the tournament, and the advance preparation has shown on court.
"The previous days here in Indian Wells helped me a lot to get back to my top level physically and also to play good tennis again," Thiem said. "It was 11 days of good practice. That's where I got my good feeling and my good tennis and also the good physical health back."
It was an impressive week from Karlovic despite the loss, as the Croat set a new record as the oldest winner of an ATP Masters 1000 match. Wednesday's defeat was his first since turning 40 on 28 February.
"Every week he is improving a lot," Massu said. "We are trying to find better ideas to play on hard courts. He's very aggressive now."