Dominic Thiem is already guaranteed a semi-final slot at the THIEMs7 invitational tournament being held high in the Austrian Alps at Kitzbühel this week, having defeated both Casper Ruud and Jan-Lennard Struff in the round robin stages.
First of all, it’s cool that the French Open is taking place. No matter whether in May or October. The only problem is: there are only two weeks between the US Open and the French Open – it will be almost impossible to get far with either. I have to sacrifice one of the two Grand Slams, that’s the way it is right now. Dominic Thiem
The event is being played with strict COVID-19 prevention measures in place and only 500 spectators are being allowed to sit in the stands of the showcourt for each session.
Ruud and Roberto Bautista Agut were late entries into the THIEMs7 presented by SoccerCoin event.
Bautista Agut, Wimbledon semi-finalist and with the Spanish team Davis Cup Champion 2019, is currently No 12 in the world and replaced Frenchman Gael Monfils in the ‘IFA’ group, which also features Matteo Berrettini (8), Karen Khachanov (15) and the Austrian Dennis Novak (85).
Norway’s 21-year old Ruud, who thrilled fans in Kitzbühel last year when he reached the semi-finals of the Generali Open, stepped in for Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.
He won his first career title on the ATP tour in Buenos Aires in February, and is ranked 36 in the ATP ranking.
He completed the ‘SoccerCoin’ group, which includes Dominic Thiem, Russian Andrey Rublev (14) and the German Jan-Lennard Struff (34).
On Wednesday, Thiem started well, breaking in the first game with his fourth break-point opportunity, and while Rublev got back on level terms at 2-2, he couldn’t edge ahead and the Austrian broke again to move 6-5 up.
He won the next game to clinch the set, and got the first break in the second set to lead 4-3.
Rublev spurned a chance to break back immediately and Thiem took his third match point to seal victory.
World No 8 Matteo Berrettini beat Roberto Bautistia Agut, 6-4 6-3, to ensure he finishes top of Group B following Tuesday’s win over Dennis Novak.
Bautista Agut experienced his first loss after beating Karen Khachanov on Tuesday, but took out Novak on Thursday to secure second place.
Novak had responded to his opening defeat in impressive style as he swept past Khachanov, 6-1 6-4, to eliminate the Russian from the tournament.
Struff also secured his first win of the event in Group A as he won 6-4 6-4 against Ruud, who has lost both of his matches.
While the action on court is unsanctioned and is essentially match practice for the players, it is providing a valuable opportunity for them to get back onto court after a long lay-off.
With the coronavirus pandemic suspending competition since March, resumption of the pro tours in August presents an arduous schedule for the rest of the year.
With two Grand Slams scheduled just two weeks apart, and a fortnight of clay tournaments in Madrid and Rome in between, players are having to make some difficult choices.
Thiem, a two-time defending finalist at Roland Garros, has been speaking this week about the dilemma he is facing.
“First of all, it’s cool that the French Open is taking place. No matter whether in May or October,” he said in Kitzbühel. “The only problem is: there are only two weeks between the US Open and the French Open – it will be almost impossible to get far with either.
“If I play the US Open really well, the French Open will be very, very difficult.
“However, flying out early in New York would be better for Paris…
“I have to sacrifice one of the two Grand Slams, that’s the way it is right now.”
In all likelihood, that could Thiem mean missing the US Open in favour of playing on his preferred surface, clay, in Paris.
Live action from the THIEMs7 event can be followed on Eurosport this week.
THIEMs7 results so far
Tuesday: Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) d Karen Khachanov, 6-4 6-3; Matteo Berrettini (ITA) d Dennis Novak (AUT) 7-6(6) 6-3; Dominic Thiem (AUT) d Casper Rudd (NOR) 7-5 7-6(4); Andrey Rublev (RUS) d Jan-Lennard Struff (GER), 3-6 6-4 [15-13];
Wednesday: Thiem d Rublev, 7-5 6-4; Struff d Ruud, 6-4 6-4; Novak d Khachanov, 6-1 6-4; Berrettini d Bautista Agut, 6-4 6-3
As part of the THIEM’s 7 event, 4 young Austrian hopes for the future are also playing to Kitzbühel in a group of 4 round robin for a total of € 20,000 in prize money.
Their format is the best of 3 short sets with a tiebreak in every set at 3 games all, and a match tiebreak in the 3rd set.
Austrian Young Guns results so far:
Tuesday: Sebastian Ofner (AUT) d Lucas Miedler (AUT), 4-2 4(7)-3(5); Alexander Erler (AUT) d Jurij Rodionov (AUT) 4(7)-3(2) 2-4 4(7) 3(2).
Wednesday: Ofner d Erler, 3(5)-4(7) 4-2 4(7)-3(5); Miedler d Rodionov, 4(7)-3(5) 4-2.