David Ferrer sealed his spot in a Masters 1000 semifinal for the first time since the Paris Masters in November 2015 with an emphatic 6-3, 6-3 victory over the third-seed Dominic Thiem at the Western and Southern Open.
The Spaniard turned in a scintillating performance that could be described as his most impressive since his return from injury. Thiem, meanwhile, looked lost, clocking up 19 unforced errors from his backhand side.
He will enter the U.S. Open as the fourth seed in two weeks having recorded only three victories on the American hard courts this summer and familiar mechanical issues let him down against the 35-year-old.
Thiem entered the contest boasting a 1-0 head-to-head record against his Spanish counterpart but he ought to have been aware that he was playing a very different Ferrer that day in Rio last year.
The Spaniard is enjoying a renaissance this summer after sleepwalking through the first six months of the year and he was emphatic in his rout of his compatriot Pablo Carreno-Busta in the previous round.
And he came out of the blocks firing against Thiem, holding to 15 before breaking with an inch-perfect forehand down the line.
The Spaniard was finding great depth on the groundstrokes, consistently forcing Thiem onto the back foot and dictating with assurance. He won 10 of the opening 15 points and it took the Austrian six minutes to register his first service hold.
He held to love for a 4-1 buffer and rarely looked troubled on serve. The opposite could be said of Thiem.
The Austrian held to force Ferrer to serve out the opening set and he duly obliged, closing out the set in a tick over half an hour having dropped only two points on serve.
Thiem retreated to his chair with his tail between his legs and the early stages of set two hardly served as encouragement in his bid to mount a comeback.
Three break points were spurned by the Spaniard whose aggression hadn’t wavered and his luck ran out when he netted a forehand on Ferrer’s fourth break opportunity.
The 35-year-old consolidated his break of serve with a comfortable hold and it wasn’t until the sixth game until Thiem showed signs of a recovery.
Ferrer had lost only three points behind his serve all match but he found himself in a 0-40 hole with the Austrian looking prepared to throw everything at his second serve. He was broken after a wild backhand sailed wide but it proved a false dawn for Thiem.
Almost immediately he went on the offensive and broke just as Thiem was settling in; a hold to 30 moved him within inches of victory.
Perhaps it was fitting that he stamped his ticket on Thiem’s serve, prompting another wild swing of the racket from the Austrian as he recorded his first top-10 victory since his triumph over Marin Cilic at the French Open in 2015.