Dominic Thiem finally cleared the fourth round hurdle at a Grand Slam not played on clay to become the first Austrian man to reach the US Open quarter-finals since Thomas Muster in 1996.
The ninth-seeded Thiem had lost all six of his previous Grand Slam fourth rounds on any surface other than clay prior to his impressive 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (2) over Kevin Anderson at the US Open on Sunday.
Thiem entered the contest carrying a poor 1-6 record against the fifth-seeded Anderson, who was a finalist at the US Open last year.
The 24-year-old faced zero break points on his own serve despite landing just 49 per cent of his first serves in. Thiem dropped a mere total of four points on his first serve and hit 42 winners against just 13 unforced errors.
“First of all I served really, really well today, not the best percentage but I almost made every point when the first serve came. I changed my return position on his serve. It’s a huge court, that made a difference because I could go far back like I do on clay,” explained Thiem.
Last year, Thiem lost in the US Open fourth round after leading Juan Martin del Potro by two-sets-to-love. The Argentine looked ill and on the verge of retiring but somehow turned things around, delivering a heartbreaking loss to Thiem.
“It was not on my mind, but I was pretty close last year. It was very painful,” said Thiem on Sunday.
“So I’m happy that I made it, and it was an amazing victory over one of the best players right now. Also first time quarter-finals outside Paris, but most of all, I’m happy with the performance.”
Anderson, who made the Wimbledon final in July, was broken three times during the two hour 37 minute showdown.
Dominic Thiem REFUSED to lose this rally 👏 pic.twitter.com/qyKKEMsNJY
— ESPN (@espn) September 2, 2018
“I definitely felt he played a great match, he made life pretty difficult for me. He defended amazingly. He hit some unbelievable passing shots. I think overall, I didn’t feel like I played poorly today. Hats off to him, he was definitely the better player today,” Anderson said of Thiem.
Despite making the finals in New York last year, none of his matches were scheduled on the main Arthur Ashe stadium. The US Open’s second show court, Louis Armstrong stadium was renovated ad inaugurated this year, and it has witnessed a slew of upsets, already gaining the nickname ‘Graveyard of Champions’. Did Anderson find any trouble playing on Louis Armstrong on Sunday?
“No not at all. I thought it was a great atmosphere a few days ago when I played Denis [Shapovalov], it was one of the most exciting atmospheres I’ve ever been part of. It’s definitely pretty loud out there, constant noise, but as long as it’s constant, I don’t mind that too much.
“It is what it is. Playing on Armstrong is great, it’s a pretty big stadium. I understand the guys out on Ashe, they’re superstars of our sport, they get people watching.”
Anderson’s ranking is expected to dip from No. 5 to No. 9 after his fourth-round exit but he’s already looking ahead to the Asian swing.
“Of course it’s very disappointing. I wanted to be here right until the end. It was definitely Dom’s day today. I’ll keep my head up, look objectively and see where I can improve,” said the 32-year-old South African.
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