ATP Barcelona: Dominic Thiem battles past resilient Dan Evans in third round

The Austrian prevailed in his war of attrition with the 26-year-old and is eyeing the semifinal.

ATP Barcelona: Dominic Thiem battles past resilient Dan Evans in third round
Thiem will be looking to exorcise his early exit at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters last week (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe)

Austria’s Dominic Thiem fought his way into the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open with a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Britain’s Dan Evans.

The 23-year-old stretched every sinew in his one hour and 25 minute assignment on Pista 1 and will face the Japanese Yuichi Sugita in the next round. 

A closely-fought tie-break decided the opening set and the margins were so fine that an errant forehand from Evans ultimately shaped the match.

The 26-year-old squandered a series of break points in set two after being broken to open the frame and Thiem, conquerer of Evans’ Davis Cup teammate, Kyle Edmund, earlier in the week, did not look back.

Evans, though, will reflect on a productive week in Spain after successive victories on the unfamiliar surroundings of a clay court.

The weather has plagued operations in Barcelona over the past two days and both players were forced to wait a full four hours later than anticipated when Mother Nature had her say on proceedings.

Indeed, Evans led the head-to-head between these two players by a solitary victory, arriving in Brisbane at the beginning of the year in a three-set win.

But the fortunes of both players on the red dirt could not contrast more starkly with Thiem boasting an ATP 500 crown on the clay courts of Rio in February and a semifinal appearance at the French Open last year to boot.

Little to separate

The match began tentatively and the sparse crowd in attendance on Pista 1 – with the clash being overshadowed by Rafael Nadal’s battle with Kevin Anderson on Pista Rafa Nadal – could be forgiven for resting their eyes between each point as the backhand-to-backhand exchanges grew in frequency.

Evans fashioned a break point at 1-1 but the Austrian saved his blushes with a sumptuous dropshot.

The Brit was holding his own throughout the opening exchanges and held twice in quick succession for 3-3.

Both players were landing a similar % of first serves (86%) after the opening seven games and Thiem took advantage of a slight lapse in concentration from the Brit to construct a pair of break points.

The Austrian sent a return long and Evans responded emphatically with an ace as the set stayed on serve.

The 26-year-old was producing a bit of razzmatazz of his own making in the tenth game when, having been sent so far wide he may as well have been sitting with the crowd, he arrowed a supreme forehand down the line.

Thiem briefly wavered when he was guilty of consecutive double faults but he held, while Evans done likewise, to force a tie-break.

The Brit grabbed the all-important mini-break early on but, with his backhand lacking the depth it had produced throughout the opening twelve games, Thiem began to find space down the line as he broke back before grabbing the incentive off the forehand wing.

He held four set points but Evans saved three of those before sending a backhand into the net as the game clock ticked towards the hour mark.

The Austrian in action (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe)

Missed opportunities

Strike while the iron is hot, the old adage goes, and Thiem duly did when he broke Evans in the opening service game of the second set.

The Brit was too passive with his sliced dropshot and the Austrian gleefully exploited it to seize the advantage.

He fashioned three break back points in the next service game but squandered two before, having looked at a second serve from Thiem, he castigated himself for an erroneous backhand.

Four straight points arrived for the Austrian and he began to turn the screw as he held for 2-0 then 3-1 before the door creaked open for Evans.

Two break points arrived this time and, likewise, Thiem saved both.

The 23-year-old broke for 5-2 when Evans clipped the top of the net with a forehand and, recovering from a 15-30 deficit, sealed his passage with a rasping forehand down the line that the Brit could only admire.