Dominic Thiem didn’t have things all his own way in the first round, but the Austrian stepped up when needed to reach the second round at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open where he will face Marin Cilic.
2022 ATP Tour
ATP 250 Series
Tel Aviv Open
Expo Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel (Indoor Hardcourt)
Selected Round of 16 Match- 28th September
Marin Cilic (2) (51/100) vs Dominic Thiem (15/10)
While not a spring chicken by any means, I was actually pretty surprised to discover that Marin Cilic is still just 33 years of age. I never thought that he was eight years the junior of the recently retired Roger Federer.
He actually still has a few more years of tennis should he choose to stay in the game. And some of his performances this year will have given him the confidence that he can still compete at the highest level. He reached the 4th round of both the Aussie Open and US Open.
He pushed current wunderkind Carlos Alcaraz to five sets in their epic US Open 4th round match.
But it was his performance at Roland Garros that truly stood out this year. He reached his maiden French Open semi-final on a surface that isn’t traditionally in his wheelhouse.
It showcased a greater maturity in his entire clay-court demeanour. Cilic is falsely maligned as a basic big-server.
But he is solid from the back of the courts and his forehand is a potent weapon. But it will be interesting to see how he comes out this week. He hasn’t played since that heart-breaking defeat to Alcaraz at the US Open.
There’s the very real possibility that he may be slightly undercooked this week.
It has been a real grind for Dominic Thiem this year. His game has deteriorated immeasurably since his remarkable 2020 US Open triumph.
He had to miss the beginning of this season due to wrist and finger issues and he actually went on to lose his first six competitive matches this year. He just seemed so physically behind where he needed to be. And this problem was further exacerbated by a positive Covid test in April.
That really set him back and he was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon to work on fitness. But the Austrian would ultimately benefit from that decision, racking up some excellent results in the post-Wimbledon clay-court swing.
But you tend to forget that Thiem was arguably the best indoor hardcourt player in the word for a spell. The two-time ATP Finals runner-up used his megawatt forehand and vastly improved serve to dominate matches. But it just seems as if it’s two steps forward, two steps back for Thiem at present.
His assiduous three-set victory against Lazlo Dere took his year-to-date win-loss record to 11-12. He was knocked out early in last week’s Moselle Open. That must have been super frustrating after he fought hard to reach the final of the Rennes Challenger event.
Thiem has got a lot of work ahead of him if he wishes to return to the upper echelons of men’s tennis. These are the type of events that he needs to thrive in if he wishes to bump his ranking back up.
Verdict: Cilic to win in straight sets at 5/4- Thiem has absolutely dominated their head-to-head rivalry. He leads 4-0, winning three of those matches on outdoor hardcourts. But the majority of those matches were played when Thiem was one of the elite players in world tennis. He is a significantly diminished figure of late and Cilic has really found something this year.
Thiem has struggled to record consecutive victories against top players this season and this presents Cilic with the opportunity to record his first ever win against the Austrian.
He should feel refreshed after a nice break while Thiem has been working his socks off in the last three weeks.