Two-time finalist Dominic Thiem fell to Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar in five thrilling sets in what could well be one of the most sensational upsets at the 2021 French Open. The final score read 6-4 7-5 3-6 4-6 4-6. Andujar played some gutsy tennis to produce the very first upset in the men’s draw on Day 1. The Spaniard also upset Roger Federer in Geneva last month. At the time, that was the biggest win in his career. This one was arguably bigger.
The World No. 68, playing on his favorite surface, was hitting solid strokes from the baseline right from the get go. Not finding a breakthrough in the first two sets, Andujar never showed signs of losing confidence. Finally, he broke in the third set to put Thiem on the back foot for the rest of the match. The match was characterized by shorter rallies, which suited Andujar more than Thiem. Not surprisingly, it was Andujar who was looking for the volley more often, finding success with the volleys and drop shots. He converted six drop shots into points, many of which came in the last two sets, driving Anduar’s intent as he began gaining more and more foothold. Thiem looked powerless as Andujar forced the errors off the Austrian’s racket with powerful and emphatic down the line passing shots. In the fifth set, Thiem was looking ruefully worn off and distraught.
Thiem in 2021
Thiem has struggled this year. He just hasn’t really been the same since winning the US Open last year, and the French Open wasn’t enough to rejuvenate his form.
There is something about clay. The French Open is an intriguing slam, where the best players in the world struggle to play their natural game. The #4 seed has been running poor form this year. His woes started at the Australian Open where he had a long and tiring match against Nick Kyrgios before falling to Grigor Dimitrov in the following round. Thiem’s woes compounded when he began the clay season at the Madrid Open, where he lost in the semifinals. He then lost to Lorenzo Sonego in Rome. Thiem has also been grappling with injuries and personal issues.
Thiem indicated in his briefings that he was having trouble switching between defensive and offensive play. The Austrian admitted to the ATP a few weeks ago, “The transitions from offense to defense weren’t good. To go really deep in tournaments, I need to improve these areas of the game and I intend to do so in Lyon this week.”
He lost his first match in that tournament to Cameron Norrie, and followed it up by losing his first match in Paris. It remains to be seen if Dominic Thiem can still recover from a rather gloomy start to the season and find some footing as he heads to the grass season, and then on to defend his US Open title.
Pablo Andujar will lock horns with either Radu Albot or Federico Delbonis in the next round. That pair plays their first match on Monday.
Main Photo from Getty.