2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem thrashed Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2 6-0 in the first round at the ATP Gijon Open on Monday. The 29-year-old, who is ranked more than 100 places below Sousa as he battles his way back from a serious wrist injury looked back to his dominant best. He certainly did not take much time in finishing off the Portuguese. Thiem will play his second round match on Wednesday against the USA’s Marcos Giron. But what were the keys to his first-round win?
#1. The slow conditions helped Thiem:
The surface in Gijon is on the slower side and that was very much to Thiem’s advantage. The Austrian, who has always been at his best on the clay (despite an excellent record on indoor hard courts) was given plenty of time on the ball to unleash his own powerful groundstrokes. Crucially, the slow conditions also meant that Sousa was largely unable to hit through Thiem. Sousa has a fine forehand and a solid backhand, but he is not one of the bigger hitters and Thiem took full advantage.
#2. Thiem’s ball-striking was exemplary:
Thiem’s dominance in the match was not only down to the slow of the surface. The Austrian hit the ball with exceptional power off the ground and seems to have recovered from the wrist injury that caused his ranking to tumble from a career-high world #3 to outside the top 150. Some of the down-the-line winners he hit, off both wing, were quite remarkable, leaving Sousa stunned and the watching fans delighted. The Austrian broke Sousa in the third game of the first set and did not look back, breaking again before finishing the set with a perfect crosscourt forehand winner.
#3. Sousa’s disastrous day at the net:
Sousa tried to take the attack to Thiem by rushing the net more frequently. However, the Austrian repeatedly beat Sousa with inch-perfect lobs. Thiem also hit some excellent passes, included one particularly impressive down-the-line backhand pass. The Portuguese could not win a single game in the second set, managing to win only 46% and 18% of the points on his first and second serve respectively. Ultimately, Thiem was comfortably the better player, hitting 14 winners compared with Sousa’s six and committing only four unforced errors against Sousa’s 13.
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