French Open 2020

Tennis: Dominic Thiem 'really loving it'

Twice runner-up breezes through in the cold; Wilander slammed for remarks on Murray

Dominic Thiem hitting a return to Marin Cilic in the first round in Paris. The Austrian shrugged off frosty conditions to win in straight sets. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Dominic Thiem hitting a return to Marin Cilic in the first round in Paris. The Austrian shrugged off frosty conditions to win in straight sets. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS • US Open winner Dominic Thiem navigated a testing first-round French Open tie against former Major champion Marin Cilic yesterday, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Having captured his maiden Slam in New York, he is trying to become the only man in the Open era to win his first two Majors at successive tournaments.

A steady display from him saw the Austrian break Cilic six times under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier on another gloomy day at Roland Garros, pushed back from its customary May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many players have been lowering the tension in their racket strings to counter the heavy, damp conditions for the later-than-usual clay-court event in Paris. But Thiem was tightly wound and straight into the groove as he sent the 2014 US Open champion, ranked 40th and unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since that year's Australian Open, packing in emphatic fashion.

Next up for Thiem is American qualifier Jack Sock, a former top 10 player who is now ranked No. 310.

"I really love this tournament, it's by far my best Grand Slam tournament so far," said Thiem, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal here the past two years.

"I'm really happy with my first round. The transition to the cold conditions and clay worked really well. I'm from Austria so I know how it is to play in these cold conditions. I love it when it's not too fast. I felt well from the first moment I came here."

The one-sided affair followed Sunday's clash between two other Grand Slam champions in Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray - the first time since 1999 that major winners met in the first round.

What was billed as an opening-day classic between two old warriors turned into a damp squib as the 35-year-old Swiss crushed Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

"I need to have a long hard think about it. It's not the sort of match I would just brush aside and not think about it," Murray, whose previous worst loss was a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 hammering at the hands of Rafa Nadal at the 2014 French Open, said. "I need to understand why the performance was like that."

Murray was competing in a clay-court event for the first time since his five-set loss to Wawrinka in the 2017 French Open semi-final and landed only 36 per cent of his first serves. The Scotsman, who cited that match as "the end of my hip", has been running a long battle ever since with an injury that once threatened to destroy his career.

  • DAY 2 SELECTED RESULTS

  • MEN'S 1ST RD

    Hugo Gaston (Fra) bt Maxime Janvier (Fra) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 6-3, Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn) bt Felix Auger-Aliassime (Can) 7-5 6-3 6-3, Jack Sock (USA) bt Reilly Opelka (USA) 6-4 6-4 6-3, Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra) bt Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-3 6-2 6-3, Mikhail Kukushkin (Kaz) bt Fabio Fognini (Ita) 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-0, Pedro Martinez (Esp) bt Aleksandar Vukic (Aus) 7-5 6-4 6-0.

    WOMEN'S 1ST RD

    Bernarda Pera (USA) bt Cici Bellis (USA) 7-6 (7-3) 6-1, Katerina Siniakova (Cze) bt Lauren Davis (USA) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, Sara Errani (Ita) bt Monica Puig (Pur) 6-2 6-1, Kiki Bertens (Ned) bt Katarina Zavatska (Ukr) 2-6 6-2 6-0, Christina McHale (USA) bt Karolina Muchova (Cze) 6-2 6-4, Petra Kvitova (Cze) bt Oceane Dodin (Fra) 6-3 7-5, Jasmine Paolini (Ita) bt Aliona Bolsova (Esp) 6-4 6-3, Serena Williams (USA) bt Kristie Ahn (USA) 7-6 (7-2) 6-0, Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Varvara Gracheva (Rus) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

He needed a wild card to play in Paris and seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander controversially suggested that the 33-year-old should retire from tennis.

The Swede told Eurosport: "I keep getting a little bit disappointed, is it his right to be out there doing that? Why? I did it and I shouldn't have, it was the biggest mistake I did in my career. I think Andy Murray needs to stop thinking of himself and start thinking about who he was. Does he have a right to be out there taking wild cards from the young players?"

The mercurial Australian Nick Kyrgios leapt to the defence of Murray, telling Wilander to "shut up" as nobody cares what he thinks.

"Muzz, just know that how ever long you stay, we all appreciate and enjoy your tennis and banter. Also I've never watched a point of Mats Wilander," he added on Twitter.

Murray insisted he intends to keep playing even though his ranking is No. 111.

He also found support from former coach Daniel Vallverdu who coached him from 2010-2014.

"He's entitled to his opinion. Like I'm entitled to mine to think that's absolutely PATHETIC from Mats...," tweeted Vallverdu, now the coach of Wawrinka.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2020, with the headline 'Thiem 'really loving it''. Print Edition | Subscribe