In a clash to decide the St Petersburg Open, French Open finalist and world #8 Dominic Thiem takes on Slovakia’s Martin Klizan. Thiem, the top seed, recently reached the quarterfinals at the US Open for the first-time, but hasn’t won a hard court title since lifting the Acapulco title in February, 2016. Klizan, meanwhile, was plagued by injuries in 2017, but has been in fine form since his return and is looking for his second title of the season after winning in Kitzbuhel. But who will come out on top?
This will be the third Tour-level meeting between Thiem and Klizan and the fourth overall. Their first clash came six years ago in Kitzbuhel and Klizan ran out a 6-1 3-6 7-5 winner, but Thiem had his revenge in 2014 in Melbourne where he ousted Klizan 6-2 7-5 in the final round of qualifying. Klizan then battled to a 7-6 3-6 7-6 win a year later in the first round in Cincinnati before beating Thiem again in Kitzbuhel earlier this year, 6-1 1-6 7-5.
Path to the final
After a first-round bye, Thiem began his campaign with an impressive 6-4 7-6 win over Jan-Lennard Struff, who had played some excellent tennis to best Andrey Rublev in the first round. That win set up a quarterfinal clash with the unorthodox Daniil Medvedev, the Russian #2. It proved to be a thriller, but in the vital moments Thiem’s nerve held firm and he was rewarded with a 6-2 3-6 7-6 win. He then reached the final courtesy of a 6-4 6-3 win over fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.
Klizan, unseeded, opened his tournament with a 6-4 6-4 win over Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy. He followed that by upsetting the mercurial second seed Fabio Fognini of Italy in straight sets 6-3 6-4 to reach his fourth Tour-level quarterfinal of the year. There he faced Denis Shapovalov, who served for the match up 6-3 5-3 but ultimately lost 6-3 5-7 3-6. Klizan then beat former world #3 Stan Wawrinka, who was looking to reach his first final of the year, 4-6 6-3 7-5.
How do they match up?
Both Thiem and Klizan are equipped with plenty of power and as a result this match is likely to be a toe-to-toe clash from the back of the court. Both men favour their forehands, and because Thiem is a right-hander and Klizan a lefty, both will be able to direct their cross-court forehand into their opponent’s weaker wing. Klizan used that pattern of play to great effect in Kitzbuhel earlier this year when Thiem struggled to cope with the heavy topspin of the Klizan forehand.
The Slovakian is unlikely to find it so rewarding a tactic in St Petersburg as he did in Austria, however. The court at the Sibur Arena does not provide nearly such a high bounce as the clay in Kitzbuhel and Thiem, who was enduring a difficult spell when they last met, is now playing with rather more confidence. Indeed, it may well be Klizan who is forced to defend his backhand, which can be vulnerable when he is under pressure, in this contest.
Thiem has had a difficult route to this final. Struff, Medvedev and Bautista Agut are all three excellent players, but he has beaten them all very impressively. He looks to be full of confidence after his fine run at the US Open where he came to within a whisker of beating Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and is surely playing the best hard court tennis of his career. Thus, although Klizan has proven troublesome for him in the past, expect Thiem to claim the title with a three set win.