Perhaps the pick of the fourth round matches at this year’s US Open sees 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime take on second seed Dominic Thiem for a place in the last eight at Flushing Meadows, with a match-up against 21st seed Alex De Minaur or Vasek Pospisil waiting the winner.
Very few players have attracted as much attention as Auger-Aliassime this tournament, with the world number 21 producing some incredible tennis to reach his first second week at a major in his fifth Grand Slam tournament. The Canadian dropped a set in his opening round but then breezed past Andy Murray in round two, and then eased past Coretin Moutet for the loss of just five games. Despite turning 20 just a few weeks ago, Auger-Aliassime is already playing at an incredibly high level and will be brimming with confidence.
Rather surprisingly, Thiem has been a little under the radar. The second seed has not attracted as much attention as the likes of today’s opponent and several other players in the draw, but has made his way through the draw fairly efficiently. A four-set win over former champion Marin Cilic was the first time the Austrian dropped a set on his way to the fourth round, and he will be hoping to reach a second quarterfinal at the tournament. The second seed has improved greatly on hard courts over the past year or two, and will be eyeing a deep run.
Thiem and Auger-Aliassime are both strong movers and very good athletes overall, meaning this could be quite a physical contest at times. The key point for the Canadian is whether he can last physically with Thiem, who is one of the strongest players on tour. Though both are aggressive, expect the Canadian to be the one more looking to end rallies quickly; he will not want to be drawn into lengthy rallies against someone such as Thiem, who is confident with defending.
However, the 15th seed will not be bullied as much as some opponents can be by Thiem. The Austrian will need to be patient against someone who can move as well as Auger-Aliassime, and could hand the Canadian several cheap points if he gets frustrated. The world number three will be looking for a strong service performance so he can control points on his serve as quickly as possible, whilst he will also be looking to return well; Auger-Aliassime’s serve can be a weakness, and Thiem may get opportunities on it.
What is also apparent about this contest is that there is a huge opportunity for both. Whoever wins will likely be the favorite for their quarterfinal and with Novak Djokovic’s dramatic exit from the tournament, a huge opportunity to win a first Grand Slam tournament has emerged. Thiem is certainly the more experienced of the two at this stage of a slam and, having reached three finals at this level, will back his ability, though his overall slam results have been middling. There may be some nerves for Auger-Aliassime to take advantage of, though the Canadian is inexperienced at this level and may also struggle with the occasion.
This is an incredibly tough contest to call. Whilst Auger-Aliassime has arguably played the better tennis of the two, Thiem has more experience at this level and provides a different type of match-up for the young Canadian. It could be incredibly tight and seems unlikely to be straight sets, though if it is close the Austrian’s experience and physicality may help him over the line.
Prediction: Dominic Thiem in five sets