After reaching his maiden Grand Slam final in Paris, world #9 Dominic Thiem will be eager to fashion a deep run at the US Open. But, he will be up against more than just his opponent on Friday with the crowd likely to give their vocal backing to the Californian youngster Taylor Fritz. Fritz, at just 20 years of age, is in the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career, and will be desperate to go even further at his home Slam. But who will come out on top?
This pair have met just once previously and it came in the second round at this very event last year. Thiem headed into the match as the favourite, and though he did end up getting the job done, he was pushed the whole way by the teenaged Fritz. Each set went down to the wire, with Thiem eventually winning 6-4 6-4 4-6 7-5. Highlighting the closeness of the match, he won just four more points than Fritz.
Path to the third round
Thiem waltzed through the first round against Sofia Open champion Mirza Basic, winning 6-3 6-1 6-4 in just an hour and a half as he outclassed the Bosnian throughout. But his second round match proved rather less straightforward, with American #3 Steve Johnson taking a two sets to one lead and threatening the upset. But Thiem came back to win 6-7 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-1 in a marathon 3:34 hours as he recorded his first back-to-back wins since Hamburg in July.
Fritz was forced to come from even further back in his first round match after going down two sets to love against Germany’s Mischa Zverev. But on a brutally hot, the net-rushing Zverev began to falter and Fritz pounced. He rallied to win 4-6 2-6 6-4 7-6 6-2 in just under four hours. His second-round match against Jason Kubler of Australia was not quite so taxing. Fritz was leading 6-3 3-6 6-3 when the Aussie was force to retire after a nasty fall.
How do they match up?
Thiem is the more aggressive baseline player of these two, boasting a heavy forehand which has turned him into arguably the heir apparent to Nadal’s clay court throne. It has also been serving him well on the high-bouncing courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. He has a fine one-handed backhand – one of the best of its kind on the Tour. But his serve, though powerful, lacks the consistency and accuracy of some of his peers at the top of the game.
Fritz also has solid groundstrokes on both sides though, and whilst he cannot match Thiem for power, he is more consistent than the Austrian. He is also a more natural hard-courter. Thiem often drops too deep to allow himself the time to unwind his big groundstrokes he enjoys from further up the court on clay. Fritz, whose court position is generally better, would do well to exploit the angles Thiem leaves open as a result. But he will have a job containing his opponent’s power.
Though Fritz is a talented young player and will have the support of his home crowd behind him, Thiem should be too strong in this one. Having reached a final at a Major for the first time in his career this year, though he has struggled slightly with his form since, he appears poised to progress past his career best fourth round appearance at the US Open. Expect him to overpower Fritz in three.(Photo credit: Marianne Bevis)
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