Thiem Saves 2 MPs, Wins Rain-Delayed Winston-Salem Opener
Dominic Thiem’s first hard-court match since March 2021 featured a one-hour, 52-minute rain delay, two match points against and plenty of drama, but the Austrian found a way to advance on Monday evening at the Winston-Salem Open.
The former World No. 3 worked hard to defeat J.J. Wolf 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(6) after three hours and 10 minutes. Thiem will play 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, the top seed, in the second round.
"First of all I'm super happy to get that win, [my] first win on hard courts since a very long time, since March '21, I guess. It was not easy at all today with the rain delay, coming back out there at 11:15 p.m. It was very late. I had trouble [getting] into the match again," Thiem said. "But luckily I raised the level a little bit in the third-set tie-break and compared to Kitzbühel, where similar stuff happened with the rain, the luck was on my side today."
After the lengthy rain delay at 3-2 in the third set, the players served their way into a tie-break, which Thiem led 4/1. When Wolf won five consecutive points to take a 6/4 lead, the home favourite was in good position to move on.
But Thiem found his best tennis when it mattered most, crushing a backhand winner on the first match point he faced and a forehand winner on the second to get out of trouble before curling a forehand passing shot to clinch his victory.
"I told myself, 'It's 4/6, now or never,'" Thiem said. "I released a little bit and it went perfectly. Four winners in a row from 4/6 to 8/6."
Thiem showed some inconsistency early on, making uncharacteristic errors. In the crucial moments of the first set, Wolf was able to take control of rallies and capture the first-set tie-break.
But 2020 US Open champion Thiem also flashed his trademark brilliance on Stadium Court, blasting one-handed backhands down the line and threading the needle with perfect passing shots on his main draw debut at the ATP 250.
In the same section of the draw, former Top 10 star Fabio Fognini defeated Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 7-5 in a rematch of the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final. The Italian will next play 13th seed Jack Draper.
There were two opening-round matches that went to final-set tie-breaks. Adrian Mannarino outlasted Christopher O’Connell 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 7-6(3) after three hours and 31 minutes, while James Duckworth rallied past Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) after two hours and 15 minutes.
Top Seeds Advance In Doubles Draw
Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic have won four titles this year. On Monday, the top seeds began their charge for a fifth trophy in 2022 with a 6-4, 6-3 victory against Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi in Winston-Salem.
The second seeds’ day did not go as smoothly. Simone Bolelli and Marcelo Melo eliminated Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek 6-4, 7-6(3). In a battle of Americans, Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson defeated Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow 6-3, 5-7, 10-6.