Thiem Prevents History, Triumphs In St. Petersburg
The top seed cruised past Klizan 6-3, 6-1 in just 68 minutes to earn his 11th ATP World Tour title, and his first on hard courts since Acapulco in 2016.
"I think that I was raising up my level from the first to the last match and obviously I played my best match today," Thiem said. "It was pretty close in the beginning. He was playing very well at the start of the match, but then I did one break, which was very important. From this moment on, I think I had control of the match."
By triumphing, the Austrian also prevented history. Klizan was previously 6-0 at tour-level with a championship on the line. And if the 29-year-old left-hander would have beaten Thiem, he would have become the first player since the ATP World Tour began in 1990 to win his first seven title matches. Latvian Ernests Gulbis is 6-0.
"He’s a very dangerous player. He can hit winners from everywhere,” Thiem said. “Even though he had some issues, I was still aware of that and I was trying to continue my normal tennis because otherwise maybe it would get closer again."
Thiem, who leads the ATP World Tour with 48 match wins in 2018, is making a push to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the third consecutive year. Thanks to his efforts in St. Petersburg, the 25-year-old is projected to climb past Kevin Anderson into seventh place in the ATP Race To London.
The 6’1” right-hander has now captured three titles this year, earning that many victories in one season for the third time (also 2015 and 2016). Thiem saved the two break points he faced, with both coming in the final game. Meanwhile, he broke Klizan at three of seven opportunities. The Austrian adds 250 ATP Rankings points to his tally, and earns $209,645.
Early on in the match, it was clear the final would be a battle of forehands. Thiem has arguably the heaviest baseline game in the sport. and Klizan came out firing early, using his thunderous forehand as he did all week to advance to the final.
But as the match wore on, Thiem’s shot-by-shot intensity appeared to wear on Klizan, as the Austrian was able to dictate play, especially when targeting the Slovakian’s backhand. After gaining a set-and-a-break lead, it became clear it was Thiem’s day. On one point, he was completely out of the rally, with Klizan on top of the net to put away a volley. But the Austrian scrambled and barely got his racquet on the ball for a forehand, which he hit for a clean cross-court winner.
"I was doing a lot of things very well today: serving, returning, and also from the baseline," Thiem said. "The scoreline was going for me, and that's why it was pretty quick, I would say."
It was still a strong week for Klizan, especially considering it was his first hard-court event since March. The World No. 65 earned impressive wins against second seed Fabio Fognini, #NextGenATP star Denis Shapovalov and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, earning 150 points and $110,415 in prize money.
“It’s a loss. I’m not very happy, but overall it was a good week for me,” Klizan said. “I had like three or four days to prepare on hard courts and the result, the final, I think it’s good.”