US Open and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson will face his toughest opponent so far in New York when he takes on world #9 and Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem, with a place in the quarterfinals the prize for the victor. Anderson, who earlier this year won his fourth title at the inaugural New York Open, has enjoyed a terrific season and will have real ambitions of going all the way. But will Thiem, who has three times lost in the fourth round in New York, derail him?
Their history suggests that he won’t. Anderson and Thiem have met seven times over the course of their careers and the South African has won six times. That includes at the US Open in the third round in 2015 when Anderson beat Thiem 6-3 7-6 7-6 on his way to the quarterfinals. Thiem did win their most recent match, however, in the semifinals in Madrid. Indeed, he was dominant, losing just six games. But the clay courts of Madrid are rather different to the hard courts of New York.
Path to the fourth round
Anderson arrived in New York as one of the favourites, but he has had to fight tooth and nail to reach the second week. He began his tournament with a battling 7-6 5-7 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Atlanta finalist Ryan Harrison. He was more comfortable in dispatching his good friend Jeremy Chardy in straight sets 6-2 6-4 6-4 to set up a clash with the rising star Denis Shapovalov. It proved to be another battle, but Anderson won it, outlasting the teenager 4-6 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-4.
Thiem has not found his path much easier. He did open his campaign with a dominant win, however, as he brushed aside Sofia Open champion Mirza Basic in straight sets 6-3 6-1 6-4 to set up a clash with the American #3 Steve Johnson. He came close to exiting the tournament, but finished strongly to win 6-7 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-1 with Johnson’s challenge fading badly in the decider. He then rallied from a set down to beat Californian young gun Taylor Fritz 3-6 6-3 7-6 6-4.
How do they match up?
There should be no shortage of winners in this match. Both Anderson and Thiem are at their best when playing attacking tennis and they have enough firepower to hit most opponents off the court. Anderson’s biggest weapon is his serve, and he has already rained down 54 aces. But he is not just a big-server. His forehand is one of the most powerful in the game and his backhand is rock solid, which sets him apart from his fellow big men Isner and Raonic who struggle on that wing.
He has already hit 146 winners, including a mammoth 76 against Harrison, and his power will test Thiem’s movement to the full. The Austrian does move well, but he can struggle when opponent’s try to rush him. His groundstrokes though powerful have large swing patterns, particularly on the forehand side, and Thiem tends to drop deep on faster courts to give himself more time. But ceding court position to Anderson would be a dangerous error, with the big man adept at exploiting angles.
Anderson and Thiem’s head-to-head is tilted so heavily in Anderson’s favour in large part because they have met six times on Anderson’s best surface and just once on courts where Thiem is at his best. But that be will a cold comfort to Thiem ahead of this match. He still does not look entirely at home when away from the clay and whilst he still has enough quality to beat most, Anderson is not most players. Expect win number seven for the South African in four.