Thiem edges past Tsitsipas in late night UTS thriller
In the last match of Day Four at Ultimate Tennis Showdown from the Mouratoglou Academy, the two highest ranked players in the tournament came face-to-face in round robin action. Stefanos Tsitsipas came into the match with the only unbeaten record through three rounds, whilst Dominic Thiem lost his opening match on Saturday, having missed the opening weekend due to prior commitments with Adria Tour. It was a tight affair between two of the world’s very best players, but the Austrian snuck through at the death, claiming his first win of the tournament, 3-1.
Thiem leads their official head-to-head 4-3 but the last time the pair met was at the O2, in one of the best matches of 2019, when the Greek won the ATP Finals with a 6-7(6) 6-2 7-6(4) victory. Things began in similarly close-fought fashion on Sunday night as the two started things off by trading ferocious blows from the baseline. Thiem drew first blood with a spectacular backhand winner to move ahead 5-3 but Tsitsipas responded with a backhand passing shot of his own to level.
Leading 8-7, Thiem found a volley winner whilst using his ‘x3 Winner’ card to push ahead, but Tsitsipas responded immediately with an ace whilst using his own card to keep things tight at 11-10. With a minute to play, Tsitsipas was serving at 13-11 down but, perhaps feeling the pressure of the clock, he mishit a volley on the first point and Thiem was able to see out quarter, winning it 15-12.
The high standard of the opening quarter continued through into the second with little to separate the two players. At 6-6, Thiem played his ‘-1 Serve’ card and it worked in his favour as Tsitsipas lost his next two service points. Now two points behind, the Greek chose to ‘Steal Serve’ and soon after the scores were tied once more with just over three minutes to play.
Using his ‘x3 Winner’ card, Thiem overcooked two forehands and handed the lead back to his opponent. Tsitsipas used his own card and also failed to find the winning shot but he did at least salvage a point to maintain his two-point cushion with 85 seconds left on the clock. That lead soon evaporated, however, but two solid points on serve saw “The Greek God” pick up the quarter 14-12 and level the match at 1-1.
At 4-2 up in the third, Thiem hit a spectacular volley at full stretch to take a well-earnt point against the Tsitsipas serve. Rattled, the Greek then fell four behind before his father called a coaching time-out to try and steady the faltering ship. In spite of this, Thiem forged further ahead, reaching 9-5 and neutralising his opponent’s ‘x3 Winner’ card in the process.
Big hitting saw Tsitsipas fight back to just 10-8 down but a successful ‘x3 Winner’ play from the Austrian saw a six-point gap open with just two minutes left to play. This proved to be too big an obstacle to overturn and Thiem held strong to win the quarter 16-13, making the fourth quarter a must win for Tsitsipas if he wanted to maintain his unbeaten record at the tournament.
Things started poorly for the Greek as he dropped his opening two service points but he found his feet to keep things level at 3-3. At 5-4, he hit an underarm serve, which Thiem managed to return, but Tsitsipas followed it up with a forehand passing shot down the line to take the point, and from there built a four-point lead.
Down 10-6, Thiem played his ‘x3 Winner’ card. He won the first point on a Tsitsipas error, and almost found the clean winner on the second but the Greek just got the edge of his racquet to the ball. The lead was cut to two with just over a minute to play and the next two on the Tsitsipas serve were split. Thiem won a quick point on his own serve, and then in the final point of the quarter Tsitsipas hit a wild shot into the tramlines to take the quarter to a deciding point. Tsitsipas was the man serving and he found the court at the first time of asking, but Thiem returned well and the 21-year-old Greek pushed the ball into the net, meaning that the Austrian world no. 3 took the quarter 14-13 and ended the unbeaten run of his opponent.
Earlier in the evening, David Goffin beat Feliciano Lopez in sudden death, which was a marked change from the afternoon session which bore witness to three consecutive whitewashes. Corentin Moutet continued to impress, beating Alexei Popyrin, and Matteo Berrettini made up for a disappointing showing on Saturday by powering past Benoit Paire. In the other match, Richard Gasquet continued his fine form with a commanding performance against Dustin Brown. In spite of his loss, Tsitsipas remains at the top of the league table on points difference, marginally ahead of Gasquet and Berrettini who share 3-1 win-loss records.
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