On Saturday Dominic Thiem put on a show on the clay to make it to his second consecutive Mutua Madrid Open final. With a playing style based on power and domination from way behind the baseline, the Austrian is through to the second ATP Masters 1000 final of his career and now has a golden opportunity to lift the first trophy of his career on Sunday.
The world number seven made light work of Kevin Anderson’s gameplan (6-4, 6-2) to win over the crowd at the Caja Mágica. Just a day after dethroning reigning champion Rafa Nadal and showing he is a serious candidate for the title, Thiem declared his intentions in the Spanish capital.
“I’m really confident. It’s my second Masters 1000 final and I’m hoping to take home my first title,” he said in the aftermath. “I’m really pleased to make it through to my second final in as many years here.”
Up against the raw power of his opponent, one of the most dominant on the circuit during tallies, Thiem put on a show of baseline resistance. The Austrian stylishly defended before taking a game that was played out over 14 points at the beginning of their match, something that was no doubt a psychological blow for his opponent. In his first-ever Masters 1000 semi-final, Anderson was up against a less than accommodating adversary.
Thiem’s initial bang was enough to see him see out the first set with a clear tactical plan. The Austrian stood a good four metres behind the baseline as he repelled Anderson’s powerful attacks, gaining a foothold in the rallies and allowing himself to play his own game “It was a totally different match to the one against Nadal. Yesterday I returned right on the baseline, but today I needed to stand very deep.” This positional order was maintained throughout, including when leading 5-4 he found himself 0-40 down when he was serving out the set.
“To break in the first game always helps,” he said. “I was really focused throughout, bar perhaps that one game at 5-4 in the first set. Eventually I was able to pull through it.”
That Thiem was able to dominate the key moments of the game was evident from the off. As seen in the first set, the match was only heading in one direction as the Austrian broke Anderson in the first game of the encounter. It was an ideal situation for the player to build on and he built a significant lead (5-1) as he saw out the match.
Faced with one of the biggest chances of his career, Thiem’s efforts were fruit of his discipline. Sticking with a game plan based on attack, and putting as many as 16 winners out of reach of a 6’8″ opponent, the Austrian crossed the finish line with just eight unforced errors – clinical work on a surface that requires more intensity that any other.
“A player like that will play you off the court, so I had quite a clear plan to carry out”, stated Thiem. “I had to try not to give him the same height on every shot and that’s something I did very well. It’s an important detail against big servers and hitters, you can’t give them any rhythm”.
In addition, the victory will provide a confidence boost for Thiem, who managed to seal the win despite stepping onto the court with a convincing 0-6 head to head with Anderson. In a rivalry that has completely taken place on hard court, the Austrian sent a clear message on his first chance on clay.
Thiem will play the final of the Mutua Madrid Open against the winner of the second semi-final, the #NextGenATP clash that closes the day’s play between the second seeded German Alexander Zverev and Canadian player Denis Shapovalov. “It will be a tough match against a young player”, recognised Thiem before turning his attentions to his clear mission: to claim the biggest title of his career in Madrid.