September 8, 2020
Dominic Thiem didn’t allow the showdown with Felix Auger-Aliassime to become the explosive epic we anticipated.
The Austrian was just too good.
He confessed to pre-match nerves because he knew he was playing an amazing opponent.
And Thiem struggled for early composure, even when he looked to have the first set in the bag.
But the tie-break signalled the end of the drama as Domi romped away to win 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-1.
‘The best match I’ve played here,’ he announced proudly. He wasn’t wrong.
The older man is a complete player. He ruthlessly exposed weaknesses in Felix’s game.
At 20, Auger-Aliassime is a brilliant talent and has plenty of time to improve.
The backhand, the volley round his ankles and inner resilience when the chips are down. These are the areas to strengthen and he will.
The Canadian is undoubtedly destined for great things. He will grow physically, technically and psychologically. It’ll happen quickly, too.
By the time Felix comes to Wimbledon 2021, he will already be quite something.
Meanwhile Domi’s worldwide fan-base is growing too.
We hope Thiem can shine at Wimbledon 2021. His talent demands it.
For now he is only focused on one thing. His first Grand Slam title.
At 27, Thiem is in his prime. He doesn’t have a weakness.
His only crime is to play in the same era as three of the very greatest – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
But they no longer feature in this US Open equation.
And Thiem is playing like a man who knows he will never get a better chance to win a major.
Who can stop him? Right now it feels like only Daniil Medvedev has the quality and big-match Grand Slam experience to do the job.
He has already played a US Open final. He too will believe that this is his time.
Thiem faces Alex de Minaur next. The Australian has done superbly to get this far.
But you sense Alex is still learning and likely to go the same way as Auger-Aliassime against such an experienced and formidable opponent.
De Minaur is a fighter and this could still be a thriller. But the favourite will surely prevail.
Thiem or Medvedev? Now that semi-final would be fascinating. Neither man would fade during that epic battle, if indeed it comes.
Then it could well be Sascha Zverev waiting in the final. The tall German is having another fine tournament.
But Thiem would probably have too much for Zverev in what would be Sascha’s first Grand Slam showpiece.
We’ll find out how it all unfolds soon enough. But right now it’s looking good for Dominic Thiem.
Meanwhile Serena Williams will also know she has the best chance to win a major in recent times.
Unlike the male favourites, she already won 23 Slams and they tend to weigh her down.
But another rival for the women’s US Open title has just fallen by the wayside. Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin lost to Elise Mertens.
And now Mertens plays another dangerous contender, Victoria Azarenka. So one more clear threat will be removed from the list of contenders.
Is this Serena’s moment? She wasn’t as good against Maria Sakkari as she had been against Sloane Stephens. But she still got the job done in the end.
We’ll soon see if Serena is running out of steam or ready to hit even greater heights.
Most of the tennis world hopes Williams can fulfil her dream and equal Margaret Court’s total of 24 Slams.
How amazing would it be if Serena came to Wimbledon 2021 with the chance to make it an historic 25 majors?
We’d love that to add scenario to the Wimbledon drama.
For now, all eyes will be on Thiem and Serena at Flushing Meadows.
One, if not both, should turn a dream into reality.