The final fourth round encounter of the evening at Indian Wells saw youngster Dominic Thiem take on charismatic Frenchman Gael Monfils. The Austrian held a 3-0 lead over Monfils, although one victory was via a walkover. Their most recent encounter however was during the round robin stage of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2016, in which Thiem won in three sets 6-3 1-6 6-4. The fans stayed up late and were expecting some quality tennis but left dissatisfied, as Thiem swept past Monfils in straight sets; 6-3 6-2.
Monfils was broken in the fourth game, after he seemingly pulled a muscle. He did not call for the trainer however but moved gingerly for the remainder of that game. He never fully recovered as he produced a lot of errors during the set. Thiem however hit some superb groundstrokes, interspersed with excellent serving. His kick serve was particularly impressive as he used it to save both break points faced in the set, and quickly ran away with the first set in 41 minutes.
The second set was even less competitive, as Thiem dictated play with aggressive strokes from the baseline. Monfils also attempted the drop shot perhaps one time too many; as he was not successful with any and some did not even make it over the net. He was quickly down two breaks and facing a 4-0 deficit. The Frenchman was able to hold his next service game to love, mostly by resorting to the serve and volley. Nonetheless, Thiem was in total control and although the crowd tried to energize Monfils, it was to no avail. He managed to hold his next service game, but a few errant shots later and Thiem had wrapped up the match 6-3 6-2 in just over an hour.
It’s possible that Monfils suffered some sort of injury during the match, as he committed a lot of errors and did not move with the grace to which we are accustomed. After dismantling American John Isner 6-2 6-4 in the previous round, it was expected that he would make Thiem work for every point. However, the Austrian was the more consistent and dare I say, focused player and he cruised to an easy victory. He easily defeated Mischa Zverev 6-1 6-4 in the third round, so he should still have a lot left in the tank.
Thiem next faces Stan Wawrinka, who edged out Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) a few hours earlier. Wawrinka leads Thiem 2-1, although their most recent clash was at the Rome Masters event in 2015 and the Swiss won that encounter 7-6(3) 6-4. Thiem is a more experienced player now, and he has more confidence in his ground strokes. Stan is however a danger to anyone on tour, and this could prove to be a nail-biter.
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