by Kevin Craig
Dominic Thiem of Austria and David Goffin both reached their first major quarterfinal and have even higher stakes to play for when they meet up on Thursday.
In Wednesday’s fourth round action, Thiem dispatched Marcel Granollers in four sets, 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-4, while Goffin upended Ernests Gulbis, also in four sets, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Both matches were completions of matches that had begun on Tuesday.
Goffin, 25-years old, and Thiem, 22-years old, will now play with the winner reaching their first semifinal in a major, as well as reaching the Top 10 of the ATP World Tour rankings for the first time in their career.
Thiem, the No. 13 seed, resumed his match at the very beginning of the third set, so he was essentially playing a best-of-three set match with Granollers. Three sets were not needed, though, as Thiem, who has been in impressive form in 2016, was able to continue his great run of play.
With three clay court titles already in his pocket, as well as having the most wins of any player on the ATP World Tour this year, Thiem raced through his first set hitting winner after winner. The rain may have been a blessing in disguise for him, though, as it slowed down the roll of Granollers who was able to take advantage of an increased error count in the second set from Thiem and rattle off the set in a tiebreak to make things more interesting.
When play resumed on Wednesday, the Austrian raced out to win the third set in less than half an hour before going on to break late in the fourth set, accentuating the win with a hold at love to close out the match.
While Thiem has played well in recent months, even he is slightly surprised with the success that he has been able to have.
“Two years ago I was here with Gulbis and he played semifinals, and back then I couldn’t really imagine that I’d go this far myself one day…it feels really good,” said Thiem.
In Goffin’s fourth round match with Gulbis, who reached the French Open semifinals in 2014 but is now ranked No. 80 in the world, the Latvian was playing with house money to begin with, as he was only able to advance to the fourth round when his third round opponent, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, retired with an injury while leading in the first set.
That “nothing to lose” mentality helped the Gulbis in the early stages as he was able to spray winners all over the court and play confidently, as he always does in these big stages.
Goffin, though, had confidence in this matchup as he had won their two previous encounters, and used that to start his comeback journey when play resumed on Wednesday.
The winners turned into errors for Gulbis allowing Goffin to capitalize on his opportunity to take the third set before easily closing out the match in the fourth, thanks, in part to a double fault from Gulbis on match point.
“It’s not easy to wait for three days for your match…the stress level if pretty high for everybody. So it takes a lot of energy in the end. I think he dealt with it better,” said Gulbis of how Goffin was able to close out the match.
Goffin and Thiem will now meet up for the eighth time in their careers, with the Belgian currently holding a 5-2 record. That record on clay courts is an even 1-1, while Goffin won the only match they played in a major, beating Thiem in four sets at the Australian Open this year.
“We practice a lot together and hang around a little bit outside the court. I think it’s going to be a very nice match,” said Thiem of his relationship with Goffin.
“That’s going to be a tough match,” said Goffin. “He can play all types of shots from the baseline…He serves really well…Physically he can play many tournaments and the big matches. He has everything it takes to play well on clay, and mentally, I have the impression he feels good.”