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


Simona Halep vs Elena Vesnina, Doha R2 Preview

Doha R2: (2) Simona Halep vs (Q) Elena Vesnina

2014 Qatar Total Open Champion Simona Halep will begin her 2016 Doha campaign on Tuesday evening with a second round clash against the experienced Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina. Simona has made a really disappointing start to the season and will be desperate to spend as much time as possible on court this week in Doha with Indian Well and Miami just around the corner, the Romanian can’t afford to arrive at those events totally deprived of confidence given the amount of points she has to defend during those events.

Simona Halep has lost 3 of her last 4 matches including a first up defeat in Dubai last week. Simona was unable to come close to defending her title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, suffering a straight set loss to Ana Ivanovic in her first match of the event. The Romanian has been unable to totally recover from her shock first round loss to Shuai Zhang at the Australian Open, Simona seems to be lacking confidence ever since that loss and is a shadow of the player that won the title in Doha back in 2014. It is critical for Simona to have a good week in Doha, if Simona continues to struggle over the next couple of weeks her ranking will drop dramatically given she is the defending champion at Indian Wells and is defending semi-finalist points in Miami.


Elena Vesnina also had a disappointing Australian summer but is showing signs of improvement this week in Doha. The Russian came through the qualifying draw in style, recording straight set victories over Ons Jabeur and Naomi Broady. Vesnina’s form translated into main draw success on Monday when she recorded a surprise 6-3 7-5 victory over Caroline Garcia.

Halep and Vesnina have never played a completed match against each other. Usually Halep would enter this match as a clear favourite, however the Romanian’s form is certainly far from her best right now and Vesnina is the type of opponent that will make life very difficult for Halep if the Romanian is having a bad night. Vesnina also has the added advantage of having already played 3 matches this week in Doha and is playing pretty good tennis week. I’m still going to stick with Halep, I suspect this will be a really close match but the Romanian should ultimately prevail in what is a critical match for the world number 4.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Elena Vesnina in 3 sets


Petra Kvitova vs Barbora Strycova, Doha R2 Preview

Doha R2: (6) Petra Kvitova vs Barbora Strycova

Petra Kvitova will begin her Doha campaign on Tuesday with a second round clash against an in form Barbora Strycova. Kvitova has made a terrible start to the season and will be desperate to reassert her dominance when she comes up against Strycova in an important clash. Kvitova has traditionally played extremely well against fellow Czech’s and will see this as a good opportunity to start a form reversal.

Petra Kvitova arrives on Doha on a four matching losing streak and has only one victory to her name in 2016 (a first round victory against Lesia Kumkhum at the Australian Open). Kvitova suffered a disappointing first round exit to Madison Brengle in Dubai last week, succumbing to the American 6-0 6-7 3-6. Kvitova started the match very well but she really seemed to run out of energy and power as the match wore on, a worrying theme in the game of the Czech in recent months. Petra’s early round exit in Dubai means that she arrived in Doha quite early and has been training at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex for a good amount of time before the commencement of the event.


Barbora Strycova’s recent form is in complete contrast to Kvitova’s. Strycova arrived in Doha just days after reaching her first premier level final in years at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Strycova was ultimately produced a poor display in the final against Sara Errani but it was still a good week for the Czech who recorded victories over Tsvetana Pironkova, Julia Goerges, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Garcia on route to the final. Barbora made a surprisingly clean start to her Doha campaign on Monday despite the short time between events, recording a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory over Kristina Mladenovic to set up a second round clash with Petra Kvitova.

Petra Kvitova holds a dominant 5-1 head-to-head record over Strycova. However, Strycova clearly enters this clash with the superior form and with momentum on her side. In a match-up like this, the form of the two players isn’t always such a great factor. Kvitova usually brings her best tennis to the court when she plays a fellow Czech and will undoubtedly be fired up for this clash. Conversely, Strycova has played a lot of tennis in the last week and I suspect she may struggle in this match.

Prediction: Petra Kvitova to defeat Barbora Strycova in 2 sets


Caroline Wozniacki vs Daria Gavrilova, Doha R2 Preview

Doha R2: (13) Caroline Wozniacki vs Daria Gavrilova

An intriguing second round clash at the Qatar Total Open on Tuesday sees Caroline Wozniacki come up against Daria Gavrilova. This will be the first career meeting between the pair and promises to an entertaining battle between two ladies desperate for victory after recent troubles. Wozniacki finally recorded her first victory since Auckland on Monday in Doha but her second round clash with Gavrilova is likely to give a better indication as to where the Dane's level of tennis is at right now.

Caroline Wozniacki arrived in Doha on the back of 3 consecutive losses including a disappointing first round loss to Yulia Putintseva at the Australian Open last month. The Dane secured a much needed first round victory over Ana Konjuh on Monday evening, recording a 4-6 6-3 7-5 win over the Croatian rising star. It was not pretty, Wozniacki was still far from her best and really struggled to close out the match. Wozniacki failed to serve out the match on multiple occasions and required 9 match points to finally close the match, not a good sign for the former world number 1. Nevertheless, a win is a win and Wozniacki was certainly delighted to break an alarming string of first round losses.

Daria Gavrilova’s first round victory in Doha was far more convincing. The Australian rebounded well from a devastating first round loss to Ana Ivanovic last week in Dubai by claiming a comprehensive 6-1 6-1 victory over Misaki Doi on Monday. Gavrilova was unsurprisingly far more comfortable with the conditions in Doha, the conditions are quite slow and heavy, especially at night and that really plays into the hands of the Australian and should help her in her second round clash with Wozniacki.

In the first meeting between Caroline and Dasha, I’m going to give the edge to the Australian. Gavrilova’s form throughout the start of the season has generally been far greater than Wozniacki’s and I believe that this is a good match-up for Gavrilova and a bad match-up for Wozniacki. The Dane can struggle against players that can defend just as well as she can, particularly when they can also play aggressive tennis. Gavrilova certainly falls into this category. Gavrilova can be inconsistent but if she plays how she did throughout the Australian summer she should win. 

Prediction: Daria Gavrilova to defeat Caroline Wozniacki in 3 sets


Agnieszka Radwanska vs Kateryna Bondarenko, Doha R2 Preview

Doha R2: (3) Agnieszka Radwanska vs (Q) Kateryna Bondarenko

Agnieszka Radwanska looms as one of the biggest title contenders this week at the Qatar Total Open. After receiving a bye through the opening round, Aga will begin her Doha campaign with a second round clash with Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko on Tuesday. Radwanska has been troubled by Bondarenko in the past, however it is hard to see the Ukrainian giving the Pole too many problems on this occasion given the form of the two players heading into this event. 

Radwanska has made a positive start to 2016, winning the title in Shenzhen before reaching the semi-final stage at the Australian where she would ultimately succumb to Serena Williams in straight sets. Radwanska’s form has been very impressive since the U.S Open last year, the Pole has a 27-5 record since New York, winning 4 titles in the process. Aga has a very good recent record in Doha, reaching the semi-final stage at the event in 3 of the last 4 years. The world number 3 will be keen and confident that she can go a couple of steps better in 2016 and claim her first Qatar Total Open title.


Kateryna Bondarenko has generally made a pretty poor start to the season but does seem to be finding some decent form in Doha this week. The Ukrainian defeated Maria Sanchez and Evgeniya Rodina to progress through the qualifying draw before recording a decent 6-4 6-4 victory over Annika Beck the first round of main draw action. Bondarenko will enter her second round clash against Radwanska with nothing to lose and may be quietly confident given she has beaten Radwanska in the past, albeit a while ago.

Radwanska holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over Bondarenko. All three of the previous encounters between the pair were way back in 2009, they both won 1 match each on hard court. Bondarenko shocked Radwanska in the first round of the Australian Open that year with a three set upset win.

Radwanska should be far too classy for Bondarenko on this occasion. The Pole has been extremely consistent over the last couple of months and is highly unlikely to slip up against an opponent such as Bondarenko. This is the type of match-up that Radwanska usually loves, she will not be overpowered and she will be able to dictate play and expose the many weaknesses in the game of the Ukrainian.

Prediction: Aga Radwanska to defeat Kateryna Bondarenko in 2 sets


Lucie Safarova vs Cagla Buyukakcay, Doha R2 Preview

Doha R2: (7) Lucie Safarova vs (wc) Cagla Buyukakcay

Lucie Safarova will begin her title defense at the Qatar Total Open with a second round clash against Turkish wild card Cagla Buyukakcay. This will be Lucie Safarova’s first match of the 2016 season after being sidelined for the entire Australian summer due to the ongoing effects of a bacterial infection which disrupted the Czech’s second half of 2015. Lucie would usually be a clear favourite in this match-up but is likely to be rusty in her first competitive match for months.

Lucie Safarova suffered with a bacterial infection for a lengthy 6-month period. Lucie’s troubles started after a shock first round loss to Lesia Tsurenko at the U.S Open, the Czech did make a comeback and participated in the WTA Finals but was clearly lacking strength. This will be Safarova’s first tournament of the new year, the perfect tournament for Lucie to make her return given her amazing week in Doha last year which saw the Czech claim her biggest career title. Lucie has been training in Doha for 2 weeks and is hopeful of making a strong return to the tour at the Qatar Total Open this week. It will be interesting to see what type of level Lucie can produce.


Cagla Buyukakcay has been lucky enough to receive a wild card into the main draw in Doha. Buyukakcay has often been awarded a wild card into Doha and Dubai events but has never made an impact at either tournament. Buyukakcay has made a fairly miserable start to the season, highlighted by her first round loss in the qualifying draw at the Australian Open. Buyukakcay arrives in Doha fresh from a 1-6 0-6 loss to Saisai Zheng in the first round of qualifying last week in Dubai.

This will be the first career meeting between Safarova and Buyukakcay. This looks like a massive mismatch on paper, Safarova is clearly a couple of levels above her opponent. However, Safarova will be playing her first competitive match for months and could be quite rusty early on in the match. Safarova has been training in Doha for weeks and will be eager to start her season, I think Lucie will win this pretty comfortably despite this being her match in months.

Prediction: Lucie Safarova to defeat Cagla Buyukakcay in 2 sets