Dominic Dominates Gael: Thiem Reaches First Australian Open Quarter-final
“I think that I played my best match so far of this Australian Open. A very, very good feeling,” Thiem said on court after his triumph. “The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and then was managing to hold my serve well. I’m so happy because I’m for the first time in the quarter-finals here.”
Thiem arrived in Melbourne having lost two of his three matches at the inaugural ATP Cup. And in his two most recent Grand Slam appearances — at last year’s Wimbledon and the US Open — he lost in the first round. But after coming from two sets to one down against Aussie wild card Alex Bolt in the second round, Thiem has rounded into form, winning eight of his past nine sets to reach the quarter-finals.
“I couldn’t be happier to be done, to be in the quarter-finals and to watch that, relax from home. I’m also very excited for that match,” Thiem said. “Obviously it’s going to be such an entertaining contest tonight and then also in two days, it doesn’t matter who I face. So I’m really excited to watch that match and may the better one win tonight.”
Monfils walked onto Rod Laver Arena with confidence, losing only one set in his first three matches to put himself in position to play for his second trip to the last eight at Melbourne Park. But Thiem carried a 5-0 ATP Head2Head lead against the Frenchman into the match, and it showed.
Far too often, Monfils left balls in the middle of the court, allowing the heavy-hitting Thiem to push the No. 10 seed wherever he pleased. And even though Monfils is as fleet afoot as anyone on the ATP Tour, he wasn’t doing enough to push the Austrian off the baseline. When Monfils tried to up his aggression, that led to more unforced errors. And when the pair got into cat-and-mouse points, which Monfils typically excels in behind his world-class athleticism, Thiem always had the answer.
Thiem earned two breaks in the opening set to set the tone, and he never relinquished his momentum, going the entire match without facing a break point. The Austrian struck 31 winners to 19 unforced errors.
“I always played my best tennis against him, so maybe that’s one reason,” Thiem said of his success against Monfils.
At 3-3 in the second set, the physicality of the match began to show in Monfils, who hunched over after a 32-shot rally. In that same game, Monfils served and volleyed on break point, following in a kick serve to Thiem’s backhand, but he missed a backhand volley wide. From there, Thiem was off to the races.
In the first game of the third set, Monfils sprayed an inside-out forehand wide from the middle of the court wide. And Thiem won his service games the rest of the way, holding the final game to love.