With a few smaller clay titles and a run to the French Open semifinals, Dominic Thiem’s breakthrough into the top ten is owed to his prowess on the dirt.
The Austrian continues to make headlines though, even as the sport moves to grass. Not expected to have strong results on the lawn, Thiem, 22, advanced to the final of the 250 event in Stuttgart by saving a pair of match points to stun Roger Federer, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4, spoiling his first tournament since a back injury forced him out of Paris.
Federer had looked both impressive and rusty in two close wins to begin the tournament, and looked to be on course for Sunday’s final after Thiem coughed up a 5-0 lead in the second, a near impossible “feat” on grass. Federer had two match points in the tiebreaker, one lost on a biffed volley and the second a great crosscourt pass from Thiem as Federer approached off a second serve:
(GIFs via MensTennisForum.com)
Thiem would later acknowledge he was lucky to force a third, though he capitalized on that good fortune. Federer had break points in each of Thiem’s first two service games of the third, yet it was Thiem who seized the lone break of the third when the Federer backhand faltered.
The quality of play from both was extremely patchy, but Thiem has quickly adjusted his clay-driven game to grass and has a chance for his first title on the surface. He’ll face Philipp Kohlschreiber, who edged him in the Munich final a few weeks back.
As for Federer, he’ll be the top seed in Halle next week, which he has won eight times. A ninth would make him the first player other than Rafael Nadal to win a tournament nine times, though his form for Wimbledon will clearly be of greater importance. The 17-time Grand Slam champion is still in search of his first title this year amid knee surgery, back pain and illness.
Elsewhere in tennis:
-Federer wasn’t the only Swiss returning from a back issue. In the Netherlands, Belinda Bencic also got a couple wins before falling in the semifinals. She lost in three sets to good friend and newly-crowned French Open doubles champion Kiki Mladenovic, who plays American Coco Vandeweghe for the title.
-Retired U.S. Open champion Flavia Pennetta and fellow player Fabio Fognini got married on Saturday.