London Contenders Thiem, Nishikori Set Vienna QF Showdown
Monfils damages Isner's London hopes
Dominic Thiem continued his quest on Thursday to become the third Austrian in the 45-year history of the Erste Bank Open 500 to lift the trophy by beating big-serving American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4 for a place in the quarter-finals. It was his 50th match win of the 2018 season (50-16).
"It was a good match. I think I was returning quite well," Thiem said. "I still felt quite a lot of pressure on my own service games because he was serving really well and he has such a dangerous game. So I knew that if I got broken back once, that the match would be completely open again. So I'm very happy that I made it in two sets."
Top seed Thiem lost just four of his first-service points (26/30) in the 78-minute encounter, saving three break points at 3-2 in the second set. The 25-year-old contender for a third straight qualification at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November, is hoping this week to follow in the footsteps of homegrown Vienna champions, Horst Skoff, who won the 1998 title, and 2009 and 2010 winner Jurgen Melzer, who retired from singles competition this week.
"Especially for us tennis players, we don't have many chances to play at home," Thiem said. "It's a very unique and nice feeling that are the people are behind me, so I enjoyed every second of it."
Thiem will next play fellow London contender Kei Nishikori, who earned two service breaks in each set to beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov, last week’s VTB Kremlin Cup titlist, 6-2, 6-2 in 64 minutes. The fifth-seeded Japanese star, who has a 38-17 match record in 2018, must reach the Vienna semi-finals in order to replace American John Isner in ninth place in the ATP Race To London. Nishikori qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for three consecutive years in 2014-16.
"It's going to be very important. Still, I think for both of us, when we are on court the only thing we want is to win," Thiem said. "Kei and me, we've had some very nice matches in the past and I'm sure it's going to be a fun one tomorrow."
One London contender who was dealt a blow on Thursday was Isner. Frenchman Gael Monfils beat the ninth-placed player in the Race 6-4, 6-4 in 69 minutes. Isner is trying to qualify for the season finale for the first time.
Monfils has maintained the momentum he gained by reaching the final of the European Open last week in Antwerp. The 33-year-old is trying to lift multiple titles in a season for the first time. In the last eight, he will face Fernando Verdasco, whom he leads 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Verdasco has won their past two matches, including one at the recent China Open, where he triumphed in a third-set tie-break.
Spain’s Verdasco reached the Vienna quarter-finals for the first time since 2008 by beating eighth-seeded Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 56 minutes. Edmund lifted his first ATP World Tour title last week in Antwerp, where he beat Monfils for the championship.