February 12, 2021
Dominic Thiem showed typical courage to come back from the dead against the unpredictable Nick Kyrgios.
A classic five set-drama with an enthralled crowd adding to the magic. The score-line read 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 but that didn’t even begin to tell this remarkable story.
Kyrgios will probably think he should have won in front of his own fans.
The Australian anti-hero had two break-points to add to his two-set lead at the start of the third. He missed with his key attempted winner and Thiem seized his chance.
Even Domi admitted at the end: ‘If he breaks me first game in the third set the match is over. But giving up is never an option, there’s always a chance.’
It’s tempting to say the result didn’t even matter. This was a fantastic celebration of tennis and the unpredictable nature of sport, the glory of crowd participation, the sheer joy of living and being at a big tournament.
We can’t wait to see similar scenes of spectators transfixed by the wonderful entertainment at Wimbledon 2021.
Thiem is in his prime and ready to thrive on grass at last.
No one provides greater entertainment than Kyrgios and no one is more entertaining.
He closed out the second set with an underarm serve. Who does that?
He could have taken the fourth but opted for some showboating instead. When Kyrgios had the chance to make the Austrian serve to stay in the match, he blew it. At least he did it in style.
Unbelievably, Kyrgios attempted a half-volley tweener up near the net, a shot that could only have worked had he turned it into a drop shot too.
Of course it was a crazy piece of shot selection and ultimately may well have cost Nick the match. Still we loved him for it.
Spare a thought for Thiem, though. He earned an awful lot of love and new fans out there too.
Domi put the challenge into words pretty well afterwards. He explained: ‘My first match against Nick here with this amazing crowd – there are easier things to do! One of the toughest things in our sport, you never know what’s coming.’
But maybe we should have known what was coming from the US Open champion. He won that title in similar fashion and this is the third time he has come from two sets behind.
‘What a great atmosphere! The longer the match went on, the more comfortable I felt. The crowd were obviously for their local hero and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I prefer that to playing in an empty stadium.’
That tells you plenty. It underlines how much the fans will mean to the players at Wimbledon 2021.
What an occasion that promises to be. Kyrgios, Thiem and of course Serena Williams.
The queen of tennis was in action earlier at the Australian Open and she survived a scare too.
Serena had to save set points long before the tie-break in the opener as she struggled to find a rhythm.
Even when she recovered a little, Serena still trailed 3-5 in the breaker itself.
Only then did her opponent Anastasia Potopova really feel the pressure. Williams saw an opening and never looked back.
The Russian asked for a medical time-out at 1-3 in the second and took it a game later.
That measure was to no avail and it was Serena who was smiling at the end.
She said: ‘It definitely feel good to be in the fourth round. I didn’t exactly come out of the starting blocks well.’
Sometimes it isn’t how you start. It’s how you finish. Just ask Thiem and Williams.