© Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem beats Marton Fucsovics on Wednesday in Rome.

Thiem Comes Back From Brink In Rome

Austrian star to play Sonego or Mager in third round

Dominic Thiem came within two points of making his third successive opening-round exit at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, but held his nerve at a critical moment in the second-set tie-break en route to a memorable Rome win.

The fourth-seeded Austrian survived a fright by beating Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 in two hours and 33 minutes. Thiem, who had lost his opening matches to Fabio Fognini and Fernando Verdasco in 2018 and 2019 respectively, was a set and 1-3 down against Fucsovics.

“It was such a close match, especially in the second set,” said Thiem, who missed competing at the Foro Italico last year. “I knew he’d be a super-tough opponent, particularly coming from different conditions in Madrid. I was fighting all the match and stayed in there. At the end, I got the reward for fighting. I had difficulties with my timing and my serve. I have to hurt my opponent more with my shots. I still won a great match and I will try to improve for tomorrow.”

Thiem, who returned to the ATP Tour last week with a run to the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals (l. to Zverev), came up clutch at 4/5 in the second-set tie-break with a delicate backhand drop shot that drew Fucsovics to the net, before the Austrian struck a backhand winner. If he’d lost the point, Fucsovics would have had two swings at just the second Top 10 win of his career.

“In that exact moment, I was just focused to win the next point,” said Thiem, when asked about the 4/5 point in the tie-break. “I was down all the time. I lost then first set and then [in the] second [set] I was a break down. [In the] tie-break, I was 4/5 down. So until that point, 5/5, I was down all the match.

“So I told myself, ‘Well, this is the chance now to go up for the first time in the whole match. It's also, if I win the point, it's a chance to win the set’. That's what went through my mind. Luckily I took it.”

Thiem, who hit 27 winners past Fucsovics, will next play Italian Lorenzo Sonego, the singles and doubles titlist at the Sardegna Open in Cagliari, who beat compatriot and wild card Gianluca Mager 6-4, 6-4 in 87 minutes.

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Fucsovics got off to the best possible start, putting Thiem under pressure off the return of serve. The Hungarian saved two break points for a 3-1 advantage, before Thiem pushed Fucsovics behind the baseline to force the error and level the score at 3-3. Fucsovics didn’t give in and continued to mix up his groundstroke placement, breaking serve in the seventh game and closing out the set when Thiem hit a backhand into the net. Fucsovics, who hit 16 winners, won the last five points of rallies over nine strokes.

Fucsovics carried the momentum into the second set, taking a 3-1 lead as a result of a Thiem forehand error. But the 27-year-old Austrian started to work his way back, forcing Fucsovics off balance and recovered to 2-3. Fucsovics led 5/4 in the tie-break, before Thiem played a gutsy drop shot. The decider was all Thiem.

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