Thiem shines in Paris
Originally published on 28/05/16 00:00
In a match between two of the brightest stars of the men’s tour it was 22-year-old Thiem who beat 19-year-old Alexander Zverev 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 6-3. And the prize was a place in the round of 16 – not against nine-time champion Rafael Nadal – but against 30-year-old Marcel Granollers after Nadal withdrew from the tournament with an injured left wrist on Friday.
In a rematch of last week’s Nice final, the world No.15 defeated Zverev for a third time in just over a month, having also beaten the German on the clay in Munich at the end of April. In doing so Thiem became the first Austrian man to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros since Jurgen Melzer reached the semi-finals here in 2010.
Thiem is no stranger to being in the second week of a Slam as he reached the round of 16 at his US Open debut in 2014. But he feels he is now stronger than before.
“I think the little difference today was maybe probably the three years age difference,” said Thiem. “I think also physically I belong [at] the top, which was not like this the past."
Thiem had played Nadal three times before. Nadal had won their most recent encounter in Monte Carlo, but Thiem defeated the Spaniard in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires in February, coming through in a tiebreak in the third set.
“I already [had] this experience. It's not such a nice one,” he said smiling.
But with Nadal’s withdrawal from the tournament Thiem next faces Granollers, who he has beaten in all three previous encounters on clay – in Kitzbuhel, Hamburg and Barcelona – all in 2014.
“I played him three times two years ago, [they] were pretty close matches,” said Thiem. “He’s a little bit of a different player. He has an unbelievable touch and a good serve, and a really good volley.”
Thiem acknowledged that Granollers has the advantage of three days’ rest after he received a walkover into the fourth round. But the Austrian goes into the match as the higher-ranked player and victory against the Spaniard would put him into a quarter-final against either David Goffin or Ernests Gulbis.
“I think the ranking doesn't lie,” he said. “So for sure I feel that I belong there in the top. But I'm kind of missing a really big result [at a] big tournament. I hope will happen soon”.
It could happen as soon as next week.
When asked how far he thought his friend and opponent could go, Zverev said: “I think he will most likely beat Granollers, to be honest. We'll see. The top guys are still playing pretty good. I mean, Novak is playing really well. We'll see how far he can go.”