The Future is now for Dominic Thiem, A new Threat to the big four’s Dominance

Over the last 3 weeks Dominic Thiem has proved that he is a legitimate threat to the top players on the ATP World Tour. The Austrian’s trip to South America saw him win 2 titles (on 2 different surfaces, on clay in Buenos Aires and on the hard courts of Acapulco) claiming notable victories over Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Grigor Dimitrov in the process. Thiem is now up to a career high ranking of world number 14 and is within touching distance of the top 10. The Austrian now looms as one of the biggest threats to the ‘big 4’ and will undoubtedly make an impact at the biggest events throughout the remainder of the year.

 

Dominic Thiem has shown all the characteristics of a future Grand Slam champion over the last 3 weeks in South America. The Austrian already has such a complete game, a damaging but consistent serve, a monster forehand, a beautiful (and effective) backhand as well as great movement. Dominic still has room for improvement, the Austrian can make some slight changes to make his game more effective on quicker surfaces, including improved volleys. It is clear that Dominic has the game to be win titles on every surface. More importantly, Thiem has shown that he has a superb mentality which will surely see him rise to the top of the men’s game in the not so distant future.

Dominic showed great resilience and reaffirmed his prowess on the dirt by claiming his fourth career title in Buenos Aires. The 22-year-old was forced to go the distance in 4 of his 5 matches in the Argentinian capital, claiming notable victories over Rafael Nadal and Nicolas Almagro, both in deciding set tiebreakers. Thiem’s 6-4 4-6 7-6 victory over Rafael Nadal at the semi-final stage of the event was a huge moment of the Austrian, proving that he has the game to beat the very best in the world. Thiem saved a match point at the later stage of that match with a thunderous forehand winner that clipped the line. Dominic backed-up his momentous victory over Nadal impressively well by winning a gruelling final over Nicolas Almagro 7-6 3-6 7-6. Dominic showed maturity beyond his years to defeat 2 vastly more accomplished opponents under enormous pressure in such close, physical matches to claim the title.

 

Dominic didn’t have much time to celebrate his Buenos Aries title, flying straight to Rio where he continued his impressive form before ultimately running out of gas. Thiem managed to navigate his way through to the semi-final stage in Rio despite the short turnaround from a gruelling week in Argentina. The week has highlighted by a stunning 6-3 6-2 demolition of David Ferrer at the quarter-final stage, one of the best performances of the Austrian’s career and one of the best individual performances by any player in season 2016.

Unfortunately, Dominic finally ran out of steam at the semi-final stage in Rio, suffering a disappointing straight set loss to Guido Pella. Dominic went down fighting and was very classy in defeat, giving due credit to his opponent and refusing to make excuses for his loss. The Australian would strongly the next in Acapulco.

 

After 2 great weeks on clay, Dominic showed that his game can be equally effective on a hard court by claiming the biggest title of his career at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco. Dominic was a little slow to adjust to the conditions in his first few matches of the event (which is very normal) but managed to overcame some tough early challenges including a second round clash with Dmitry Tursunov where Thiem saved break points to stop the Russian from serving for the match in the deciding set.

Dominic’s best performance of the week was a stunning 7-5 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov, dominating the Bulgarian in all areas. Dominic continued his form in the semi-finals where he thumped Sam Querrey 6-2 6-2 in a near perfect performance. These two matches were a big deal because Dominic totally outplayed two players who play their best tennis on a hard court.

 

Dominic secured the biggest title of his career and his first title of a hard court with a gutsy 7-6 4-6 6-3 win over Bernard Tomic. The 22-year-old was far from his best in the opening set (and for large periods of the match) but managed to grab a one set lead through guts and determination. Dominic struggled with Tomic’s unorthodox and lethargic play in the second set but was far too strong when it mattered most in the deciding set. It was a great week for Dominic, proving that he can deal with a whole number of different circumstances and come out on top.

The future looks extremely bright for Dominic; the sky is the limit. I look forward to seeing Dominic make a big impact in the coming months, particularly during the clay court season where he will be one of the toughest opponents to defeat.

I will be back for Indian Wells where I will be writing previews for ATP matches for the first time. I’m really looking forward to Indian Wells and the continued support of my ongoing readers, In the mean time I will be adding a couple of posts this week as the WTA tour heads to Kuala Lumpur and Monterrey for International events, I will be adding full match predictions for each event. Thank you 🙂 

Dominika Cibulkova vs Sloane Stephens, Acapulco Final Preview

Acapulco Final: Dominika Cibulkova vs (2) Sloane Stephens

A blockbuster final in Acapulco on Saturday evening sees former champion Dominika Cibulkova come up against American Sloane Stephens. Whilst the draw has fallen apart in Doha and left a bizarre final between Suarez Navarro and Ostapenko, the draw in Acapulco has held up well and we are left us with an extremely exciting final to look forward to between two very evenly matched players. The head-to-head series between Dominika and Sloane is split at 1 win apiece, it will be interesting to see who emerges victorious in Acapulco.

Dominika Cibulkova has maintained her unbeaten record in Acapulco this week, reaching her first final since Kuala Lumpur in 2014 by advancing to the final in Acapulco for a second time. The 2014 Acapulco champion started the week with a bang, thrashing Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-0 6-0 before receiving a walkover in the next round courtesy of Victoria Azarenka’s unfortunate withdrawal from the event. Cibulkova was forced to come from a set down in her quarter-final match with Johanna Larsson, ultimately the Slovakian emerged victorious by claiming a 3-6 6-3 6-3 win. Dominika’s most impressive performance of the week thus far came at the semi-final where she defeated Christina McHale 6-3 6-3. The Slovakian seems to be peaking at the right stage of the event and will be confident heading into Saturday's final.

 

Sloane Stephens has waltzed through the draw in Acapulco after a slow start to the event. The American was extremely close to a first round exit but rallied to record a 1-6 6-3 6-3 win over Louisa Chirico. Sloane has been relatively untroubled since her first round scare, picking up straight set victories over Olga Govortsova, Naomi Osaka and Yanina Wickmayer. Sloane secured her place in Sunday’s final with a dominant 6-2 6-0 victory over Yanina Wickmayer but will undoubtedly face a much tougher test when she comes up against a determined Cibulkova.

The pair have traded victories in their two previous encounters. Sloane defeated Dominika in straight sets in Brisbane back in 2013 whilst Cibulkova won their most recent clash 6-3 6-4 at the Rogers Cup last year. This is a very even match-up on paper between two ladies that have very similar strengths. Both are excellent movers whilst also being extremely powerful given their relatively small height. Experience is on Dominika’s side heading into this final and that may give her a slight edge. Dominika looks extremely determined this week and is always going to be very tough to beat in a big match when she is in such a mood. I suspect Dominika will be good enough to get the victory here in a really close match, her confidence to go for broke on big points will be critical.

Prediction: Dominika Cibulkova to defeat Sloane Stephens in 3 sets


Agnieszka Radwanska vs Carla Suarez Navarro, Doha SF Preview

Doha SF #1: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs (8) Carla Suarez Navarro

Agnieszka Radwanska looks like the clear favourite to claim her first Qatar Total Open title heading into the semi-final stage of the event on Friday. The Pole will face Carla Suarez Navarro for a spot in the final, an opponent Aga has a good record against and recently defeated quite comfortably at the quarter-final stage of the Australian Open last month. Both ladies will be aiming to reach the final at the Qatar Total Open for the very first time with a win on Friday. 

Aga Radwanska has clearly been the most consistent player on the WTA tour since the U.S Open last year, Aga has won 16 of her last 17 matches and 30 of her last 35 matches including 3 titles. Aga’s level of tennis has gradually improved this week in Doha. The world number 3 started the week with scrappy straight set wins over Kateryna Bondarenko and Monica Niculescu before producing a very high quality performance to defeat Roberta Vinci 3-6 6-2 6-3. Radwanska finished the match with some impressive statistics, hitting 40 winners to just 27 unforced errors and maintaining a very high first serve percentage of 78%. Aga has now reached the semi-final stage in Doha on 5 occasions but is yet to reach a final, the Pole will be confident she can change that record on Friday.

 

Carla Suarez Navarro is also playing some good tennis this week in Doha. The Spaniard has not dropped a set this week, recording straight set wins over Donna Vekic, Timea Bacsinszky and Elena Vesnina. Suarez Navarro has been typically consistent during the first couple of months of the year but has also typically struggled in big matches, Carla will be looking at her semi-final clash with Radwanska as a big opportunity to reverse that unwanted trend and reach her first final of the season. 

Radwanska holds a 3-1 head-to-head record over Carla. The pair met last month at the quarter-final stage of the Australian Open and it was Radwanska that won quite comfortably 6-1 6-3. I expect this match to be much closer but I expect the same result. This is a good match-up for Aga who does most things better than Carla. Aga seems to be peaking at the right stage of the tournament and really enjoys the court conditions in Doha. The title is Aga’s to lose from here, she shouldn't slip up.

Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Carla Suarez Navarro in 2 sets


Agnieszka Radwanska vs Roberta Vinci, Doha QF Preview

Doha QF: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs (9) Roberta Vinci

The fourth and final quarter-final of the day at the Qatar Total Open promises to be the highest quality match of the day when Agnieszka Radwanska comes up against Roberta Vinci. This is a fascinating match-up between two of the smartest and craftiest players on tour and two of the most in form players on tour over the last couple of months. This match looks like have a big impact on who goes on to win the title this week in Doha. 

Aga Radwanska is the highest seed left in the draw in Doha and seems to be in prime position to claim her first Qatar Total Open title. Radwanska has come close to winning a title in Doha on many occasion, reaching the semi-final stage in the three of the last four years, this looks like the year Aga could go a couple of steps better. The Pole started the week with a hard-fought 6-4 6-4 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko before claiming a 7-5 6-1 win over Monica Niculescu in a real tactical battle. Radwanska’s victory over Niculescu is the perfect preparation for a clash with Roberta Vinci, another match-up where Radwanska will need to tactically be at her best against the Italian. 

 

Roberta Vinci has continued her winning ways in Doha. The Italian is competing in her first event as a top 10 player courtesy of a consistent start to the season. Vinci’s week in Doha started with a comprehensive 6-2 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko before winning an extremely tight contest against Daria Kasatkina 2-6 6-4 7-6. The Italian made the most of a favourable draw to advance to the quarter-final stage, claiming a 7-5 6-1 win over Cagla Buyukakcay. Vinci will need to overcome a very negative head-to-head record against Radwanska if she is to advance any further this week.

Radwanska holds a 7-2 head-to-head record over Vinci, however it was the Italian who won their most recent clash. Vinci recorded a shock 6-4 6-4 victory over the Pole in Beijing in 2014 in what their most recent match. Interestingly, all 7 of the previous matches between the pair ended in straight sets. I suspect Radwanska will emerge victorious on this occasion, the Pole has been very consistent recently and clearly enjoys playing Vinci and also enjoys the conditions in Doha which should further aid Aga in this match-up.

Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Roberta Vinci in 2 sets


Agnieszka Radwanska vs Monica Niculescu, Doha R3 Preview

Doha R3: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs Monica Niculescu

Aga Radwanska will continue her quest for maiden Qatar Total Open title on Wednesday when she comes up against Romanian Monica Niculescu in the third round. Radwanska’s chances to win the title in Doha increased dramatically after day 2 saw another streak of bizarre losses for seeded players at the Qatar Total Open including Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Belinda Bencic. Radwanska lost her most recent clash to Niculescu and will be keen to avenge that loss in Doha.

Radwanska made a reasonably positive return to competitive action in first match since a semi-final exit at the Australian Open. The Pole recorded a relatively comfortable 6-4 6-4 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko on Centre Court. It was reasonably clean performance but clearly Aga will need to improve as the week progresses. Radwanska has reached the semi-final stage in Doha in 3 of her least 4 appearances at the event, clearly the world number 3 enjoys the conditions in Doha and will be looking to go a couple of steps better in 2016.

Monica Niculescu has recorded a pair of decent victories to advance to the third round in Doha. The Romanian started her Qatar Total Open campaign with a 6-2 6-2 victory over a wayward Sabine Lisicki before winning a marathon battle against Jelena Jankovic 3-6 6-4 7-5. Niculescu twice failed to serve out the match in a drama filled deciding set but ultimately held her nerve and secured her third consecutive victory over Jankovic.

The head-to-head record between Radwanska and Niculescu is split at 1 win apiece. It was Niculescu won their most recent clash, causing a major upset at the semi-final stage in Nottingham last year by recording a 5-7 6-4 6-0 victory. Radwanska’s form has improved dramatically ever since that match which was actually a turning point in Radwanska’s season. I suspect Radwanska will be too good for Niculescu on this occasion, the Pole does pretty everything better than Niculescu and should be smart enough to win this with relative ease.

Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Monica Niculescu in 2 sets