ATP Stuttgart final preview: Dominic Thiem vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

The Mercedes Cup title will be decided tomorrow, with a slightly surprising pair of finalists doing battle for the title. The red-hot Dominic Thiem will vie for his first career grass court title against home hope Philipp Kohlschreiber after the pair both posted impressive wins in the semifinals on Sunday.

The match will take place not before 1:30 pm local time (7:30 am ET) on Centre Court.

How They Got Here

Thiem, who primarily prefers slow surfaces, has not had an easy run so far on the grass. He needed two tiebreaks to escape a first-round service battle with Sam Groth. His next two matches both saw him drop the first set 3-6 before coming back to win in three sets on both occasions. First, he saw off Mikhail Youzhny before upsetting Roger Federer, who Thiem had also upset in the Swiss’ most recent match back in May, to advance to the final.

Thiem plays a forehand during an early round match. Photo: Getty Images
Thiem plays a forehand during an early round match. Photo: Getty Images

Unlike his finals opponent, Kohlschreiber has had a very straightforward run to the final. The German has yet to drop a set in three matches, making his wins over tough opponents look easy. In round one, he took out Denis Kudla before cruising past Radek Stepanek, who was coming off an upset of the second seed Marin Cilic, in the quarterfinals. In the semis, Kohlschreiber was impressive in a grinding win over Juan Martin del Potro.

The History

Kohlschreiber has won both of their previous meetings, including the final in Munch just last month. Both of their previous matches came on clay. Of the five sets they’ve played, Kohlschreiber has won four of them, but three of those sets were won in tiebreaks. However, it’s worth noting that Thiem is the stronger clay court player and could not win, while this upcoming match will be played in Kohlschreiber’s home country on a surface that the German prefers.

Role of the Surface

Thiem has never reached a final before on grass, while Kohlschreiber is experienced and strong on the surface. He has a title and a runner-up performance on grass to his name and his best ever appearance at a major came on the lawns of Wimbledon. The young Austrian has already won more matches this week on grass than he had previously in his entire career. The surface gives a massive advantage to the German. The fact that Thiem could not defeat Kohlschreiber on his strongest surface, clay, is worrying for the world number seven. He will be hard-pressed to top the German on a surface that he has a considerable advantage on.

Can Thiem Resist Kohlschreiber’s Attack?

Kohlschreiber plays a backhand during his semifinal win. Photo: Getty Images
Kohlschreiber plays a backhand during his semifinal win. Photo: Getty Images

While Thiem is more than happy to grind through long baseline rallies, Kohlschreiber will be trying to keep the points short. The German likes to go big and hit the ball hard and flat. This is a tactic that is more effective on the grass. And it’s worked well against players who like grass so far at this tournament, while Thiem has struggled against some opponents who will pose less of a challenge than Kohlschreiber. The Austrian will have to be incredibly consistent, but also more aggressive than usual. He needs to keep Kohlschreiber from stepping up and attacking. If he can turn the match into a battle of consistency, he gives himself a chance to win.

Prediction: Kohlschreiber in three sets

Despite how well Thiem is playing at the moment, Kohlschreiber is better on the surface and Thiem has hardly been convincing. In the final, he faces an experienced clay court player who is healthy. While Thiem will be confident after his win over Federer, he will find himself under more pressure against the raw power of Kohlschreiber. It could be close, expect tiebreaks, but the German’s experience and the home-crowd support will lift him to a title. 

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