Thiem Powers Past Mannarino At Australian Open
Dominic Thiem arrived with plenty of confidence for his opening-round Australian Open clash on Tuesday against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. The fifth-seeded Austrian had won all seven of their previous ATP Head2Head clashes and moved to 8-0 with a solid 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 victory.
“The last time I played against him was here [in Melbourne] two years ago. We’ve always played close matches,” Thiem said in his on-court interview. “He’s a very talented player, so I’m happy to be through to the second round.”
Although Thiem had slight dips in form during the match, he displayed new tools in his hard-court arsenal that will serve him well in Melbourne. He showed a greater willingness to step inside the baseline and move forward, knocking off winning volleys to shorten points.
The match also marked the first Grand Slam match of Thiem's new partnership with fellow Austrian and former World No. 1 Thomas Muster. Thiem added Muster to his coaching staff earlier this month and is hopeful that the high-profile collaboration will yield significant results.
”It’s only our third week together, but he’s an amazing addition to my team. He’s the greatest player in our country by far and an absolute legend in sports,” Thiem said. “He has so much knowledge about tennis, so much experience and he can help me a lot. I hope it’s going to pay off very soon.”
Mannarino’s crafty, all-court game has given him five career Top 10 wins and a maiden ATP Tour crown last June in ’s-Hertogenbosch (d. Thompson). But the 31-year-old Frenchman’s off-pace shots gave Thiem plenty of time to wind up from the baseline.
The Austrian broke first in the opening set and cracked a forehand winner for a 3-1 lead. Mannarino bravely saved a pair of set points while serving at 2-5, but Thiem showed the benefits of his grueling pre-season training in the next game. He converted his third set point after standing his ground in a brutal 27-shot rally, gradually wearing Mannarino down to take the early advantage.
Thiem showed signs of frustration in the second set when he started catching his forehand late and spraying errors off that wing. He earned an early break to lead 3-2, but sent a forehand long at 4-3 to gift it back to Mannarino.
Although the Frenchman kept himself in the set, he visibly struggled to keep up with Thiem’s physicality and the lengthy rallies that dominated their clash. The fifth seed secured a break at 5-5 after prevailing in a 28-shot exchange and won 12 of the last 14 points to take a commanding advantage.
The third set was one-way traffic for Thiem. He won 16 of the first 20 points and eventually prevailed in two hours and 21 minutes. Thiem finished the day with 36 winners to 34 unforced errors.
Gael Monfils saved all seven break points he faced to beat Yen-Hsun Lu 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. The 10th seed, who reached the quarter-finals in 2016, will meet Ivo Karlovic for a third-round spot. The 40-year-old withstood 49 winners to beat Vasek Pospisil 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5. Monfils leads Karlovic 4-2 in their ATP Head2Head rivalry.
Taylor Fritz needed 86 minutes to move past Tallon Griekspoor 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The 29th seed landed 17 aces to reach the second round for the second straight year in Melbourne. Fritz will face Kevin Anderson for a spot in the third round after the South African saved one match point to beat Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(8) in three hours and 54 minutes.