In one of the most exciting third round’s Monday matches 29th seed Mischa Zverev met 8th seeded Dominic Thiem.

The Context

After losing 1-6 1-6  to Rafael Nadal in Brisbane to start the year, the German serve-and-volleyer had the best tournament of his entire career. He upset John Isner and the current world no.1 Andy Murray on the way to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals. However, since then he had been in a disastrous form, losing five matches in a row (losses with Dimitrov, Federer and Nadal are obviously justifiable, but those against De Schepper and Bemelmans aren’t). He managed to snatch the 29th seed at this year’s BNP Paribas Open and dismantled Joao Sousa in the second round 6-4 6-3.

On the other side, Thiem is in a solid form this year, highlighted by winning Rio Open 500 without the loss of a set. It was played on clay courts, the Austrian’s favourite surface, but the slow, high-bouncing hard courts of Indian Wells should fit his game too and he actually had a really solid secound round against a pretty cold but still dangerous Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, winning 6-2 6-4.

Their only previous meeting was on grass courts two years ago and was won by the German quite easily in straights, but as it was before Thiem’s big breakthrough on the turn of 2015 and 2016 and played on very quick, low-bouncing courts of Stuttgart today’s match could be a totally different story.

The First Set

Thiem started the match with a comfortable hold and it seemed that the German is going to start with that too, but this wasn’t the case as from 40-15 he actually had a lot of trouble hitting the first serves and some good backhand passing shots from Thiem he was already broken in his first service game. The Austrian soon raced to a 3-0 lead.

It looked as if Zverev could still hang in that set for a few more games, but then he actually played a really shaky game, especially when it comes to net play and Thiem led 5-1 with a double break. The Austrian finished it with a comfortable hold. He lost just three points in four games on his serve in the first set.  What Mischa had to work on in the second, was especially the first serve which found it’s target just 43% of the times.

The Second Set

Not without trouble, but Zverev opened the set with a hold of serve and it all started being a little bit more promising for the German. However, he still couldn’t get a look on the the 8th seed’s serve. Out of nowhere the fourth game of the second set went to deuce on Thiem’s serve as he played some really poor groundstrokes, but he managed to win the game anyway. Mischa was still shaky when it came to volleying and after blowing a 40-15 lead on his serve in the seventh game he actually got broken due to both his mistakes and some solid play from the Austrian.

Thiem held his serve and then played great on Zverev’s serve, hitting an improbable return winner to give himself three match points. That was easily the best game of the match as Thiem tried his best to seal it, but Mischa saved five match points due to some on-spot serving and impeccable net play. The Austrian was not to be denied today and he took the match on his sixth opportunity with another love hold, giving the German just five games in a 59-minutes 6-1 6-4 demolition.

 

Conclusions

Not taking into consideration that fourth game of the second set it was just a rock solid performance from Dominic Thiem. He was untouchable on serve, losing just eight points in nine games. On the other side of the net, Mischa was all the time up and down and his opponent was able to take advantage of the bad moments. He was also not very consistent at his strengths – serve and net play. Thiem also didn’t allow the German to grind successfully from the baseline, having just too much power for Zverev too handle.

Next up for Thiem is a clash with a winner from another very exciting matchup – Gael Monfils – John Isner. Whether it is going to be the chimeric Frenchman or the big serving American it’s certainly not going to be easy for the Austrian but if he continues to play at the level he showed today he will definitely fancy his chances against his next opponent.

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