Dominic Thiem backhand French Open 2020

‘It’s like a goalkeeper facing a penalty. Just pure luck’ – Dominic Thiem on returning John Isner’s serve

Dominic Thiem has spoken of the challenge of returning John Isner’s serve and admitted he is “surprised” to be in the Madrid Open semi-finals.

The world No. 4 defeated the American 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the ATP Masters 1000 event on Friday.

Isner hit 107 aces in his four matches in Madrid and defeated both Roberto Bautista Agut and Andrey Rublev in deciding set tiebreaks in the previous two rounds.

“[On facing Isner’s serve] I think it’s comparable to a goalkeeper [facing] a penalty. If he places it well, if it has the right speed, there’s just no time to react,” Thiem said in a post-match interview.

“You either have to guess or hope that he’s missing the first serve. It’s just pure luck actually to return it. It’s like a 50/50 chance. That’s why it’s so, so tough. It’s not only the first serve, it’s the second as well, which has such a high bounce.

“You go close, return it, which is unbelievably tough, especially here on clay in altitude, or you go five, six metres back behind the baseline. He has a lot of time to come in [to] the net. It’s just incredibly tough to be a returner against him.

“I’m pleased with everything [in] my game. I’ve played three very different opponents. Everything is working quite well. [My] groundstrokes are working well. The serve was pretty good all the time. The return today, especially in some parts of the game, was very good.

“I guess that I’m on the right [path] definitely. But still many things to improve, getting 100 per cent back in the match rhythm, anticipation and everything. I am surprised to be in the semi-finals.”

The 27-year-old Austrian faces Alexander Zverev in the Madrid semi-finals today.

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.