Second rounds at the Australian Open have usually meant tough going for Dominic Thiem.
Last year wildcard Alex Bolt — who always seems to play his best tennis at home — took the Austrian to five sets, while in 2019 Thiem retired due to illness against another Australian, Alexei Popyrin.
Even the year before in 2018, Denis Kudla stretched the Austrian to five more sets.
But Thiem finally had a relatively routine second round outing on Wednesday, dispatching Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 6-4 6-0 6-2 at a sun-kissed Margaret Court Arena where temperatures hovered around 30 degrees.
Last year’s finalist aims to go deep into the second week again, but for now he achieved a first on his eighth visit — reaching the third round at Melbourne Park without dropping a set.
How many times have we seen the underdog in a match hold opportunities, not take them and then struggle to recover?
It happened to Koepfer, who enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020. The left-hander most notably qualified for the Rome Masters, saved a match point against Alex de Minaur and grabbed a set off world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
This after a fourth-round showing at the 2019 US Open, where he extended eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev to four sets.
Koepfer held the opening break points Wednesday at 3-2. Both times, though, the reigning US Open champion produced good first serves on the ad-side. He sent a rocket out wide before, showing his versatility, landing one down the middle with sidespin.
Koepfer might have been slightly frustrated, but was even more so in the next game when he dropped serve on a fourth break point by sending a forehand wide to trail 4-3.
“After that I played more freely,” Thiem said.
“Especially after the first set, kind of everything started to work. I found a super good timing. I think it got some degrees cooler, which was little bit more comfortable to play.
“But in general I’m happy because I beat a very good opponent in three sets.”
Koepfer walked to his chair and muttered to himself at the change of ends. Was it in German or English? He is listed as residing in Tampa, Florida after playing university tennis at Tulane in New Orleans.
New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras, but this was no party for the world No.70.
After holding for 4-5, he lost the next 11 games.
Just like he did against Mikhail Kukushkin after a tight first set — saving a set point at 5-6 — Thiem completely relaxed.
Thiem has it all, from crazy power to incredible speed. There’s always at least one highlight-reel shot from the 27-year-old, and the pick of the bunch could have been his caressed forehand winner around the net post early in the second set.
He dug out of a 0-30 hole to officially advance as his second-round foibles in Melbourne vanished.
“Today was a good match, I think the best so far in Australia and a lot of good stuff to build on,” said Thiem, who went 1-1 in the ATP Cup last week.
Thiem will face either Australian Nick Kyrgios or French 29th seed Ugo Humbert next.
Source: Ravi Ubha