Newly minted as a world top 10 player, Dominic Thiem backed up that ranking with a hard-fought and hard-won victory against Australian Sam Groth. It was such a close match both sets had to be decided by a tie-break. Thiem emerged the victor in both to advance in the Mercedes Cup with a 7-6(3), 7-6(2) win.
From clay to grass
After a very impressive showing at the French Open, Thiem is now the seventh best player in the world. His new top 10 ten ranking was not much of a deterrent for Groth, though. The Aussie has a form that is particularly suited to the grass courts, and it served him well in this bout with his younger foe. A mix of heavy ground strokes with his backhand and blistering aces from Groth led to the match being a matter of who would break first.
Thiem fired 11 aces against the big right-hander. However, Groth had one key skill in his pocket that he would employ with regularity: his own massive serve. The fastest server in tennis sent 21 aces of his own across the net. It was the biggest tool that allowed the Aussie to stay on serve throughout the first set. Thiem, on the other, hand used his patented baseline play to prolong points before he would fire a winner or move in for a cross-court shot. Great play by both men sent the first set to a tie-break.
Thiem has an upper hand in tie-breaks. He often prevails in them, as evidenced by his 12-3 record this year. The tie-break at the Mercedes Open was more of the same. The Austrian-born Thiem is often credited with a steady mental game and used solid baseline play and defense to win the break and clinch the set.
The second set was more of the same. Both players were determined to hold serve while trying their best to somehow take the other off his game. Thiem nearly accomplished that in the sixth game of the set.
He used a strong forehand, combined with a bit of sloppiness by Groth, to claim a break opportunity. But Groth's big arm pushed the game to deuce. He would eventually hold serve.
The led the match to yet another tiebreak. There, Thiem would do some of his best work. Up 3-1 in the break, Thiem sent a powerful serve and was quickly waiting at the net for Groth's return. He volleyed with relative ease off his backhand and watched as a helpless Groth sent a ball into the net.
After the Aussie evened the break, Thiem showed off how much he has grown and adapted to grass court play. On Groth's own serve, Thiem took on his opponent who quickly moved in towards the net. Groth played a soft drop from his forehand and Thiem slid in quickly. While gliding on the grass, he stabbed with a backhand to win the point.
The Austrian closed the set and match out with an ace of his own. The serve sent him to the quarterfinals in Stuttgart and builds on what he hopes will be a strong grass court campaign.