Dominic Thiem eased into the Madrid Masters final with a straight sets win and his first in seven attempts over the US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson. The rangy South African had already broken his Masters quarter-final duck (on his 11th attempt no less) but could go no further as Thiem backed up his stunning win over Rafael Nadal on Thursday.
Thiem brought that same winning attitude starting with a break and holding on to that lead to grab the first set. He started the second set with an immediate break once more and with the benefit of a double break cushion, served out the set with his first match point.
Thiem said: “It was a completely different matchup today. There was also the fact that I never beat him. It was 0-6 before today. Some things were a little bit shaky.
“I was keeping my level up from yesterday, so that was a great thing. The way I started was also well. Even though I played really different, I was returning very far back today. Yeah, almost everything worked out. To beat him 4-2, it’s a very good result.”
Alexander Zverev, who has largely flown under the radar with late starts and finishes, and has quietly and efficiently got the job done without dropping a set throughout. He ended the impressive run of Canadian Denis Shapovalov once he got the measure of him.
He said: “I played much more aggressive. Started maybe reading his serve a little bit better. Played a very good match. If you let him play aggressive, he’s going to punish you a lot.”
Not surprisingly with their first three encounters on the clay, Thiem won all three, but they were by no means pushovers. The two tier level matches went to three sets, and at Roland Garros two years ago, Zverev took the first set off Thiem before the Austrian made it look routine.
The key for Zverev will no doubt be a more aggressive stance, and to prevent Thiem from controlling the rallies and dictating where to send Zverev, which he did effectively with Nadal.
Although Zverev stoppe the rot of losses to Thiem in Beijing in 2016, Thiem made good use of the Rotterdam indoor courts to once more come from a set down to halt Zverev.
Zverev does have two Masters titles to his name, and he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to get them, but in fairness, both were struggling a little too at the time, and this time (as in Miami against John Isner) he will be facing someone in full fitness.
Thiem backed up his win over Nadal in confident style and on clay is definitely not to be counted out, but Zverev has the bug-match winning experience, and comes in definitely a little fresher, although hopefully this will be as hard fought as the WTA final on Satuday.
Thiem said of the match-up: “Against Sascha, we’ve played five times already. Last time was over one year ago, though. In this year, he increased his level dramatically. He won two 1000s. He came into the top 10. If I play him, it would be definitely something different.”
Zverev said: “It’s obviously a great final for kind of the future ahead. We played five times against each other when he was already top 10 and I was more in the developing stage still. Obviously he’s leading the head-to-head. But I’m playing quite well. So is he. Hopefully it will be another entertaining one.”
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