In February Austrian Dominic Thiem put a stake in the ground as a likely Grand Slam winner on multiple surfaces once the “Big 4” (is there a Big 4, or a Big 1?) comes to an end.
Earlier in the month he beat Spanish veterans Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro on clay, claiming the Buenos Aires title in between. On Saturday he beat Bernard Tomic 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3 for the 500-level Abierto Mexicano Telcel Acapulco title on hardcourt to cap a February coming-out party to remember.
“It was unbelievable,” said the 22-year-old Thiem, who will rise to a career-high No. 14. “These three weeks have been amazing. Winning my first 500 title and first hardcourt title, it was just perfect. It was how a final should be, between two young and up-and-coming players. I hope we’re going to play many more finals together. Both of us wanted to win so badly and I’m happy I was the one today.”
Both the first- and second-set fights were a turn-around for Tomic, nicknamed “The Tank Engine,” who a week earlier in Delray Beach admittedly gave up in his first-round match after losing the first set to American journeyman Rajeev Ram.
“It’s not easy, I’d love to win,” said Tomic. “It could have been huge if I won, but I had my chances. That’s the biggest disappointment, having the chance to win. I’m frustrated with myself…I was leading in the first set and then I lost it and I was up a break in the third and gave away my serve straight away. But he was playing very well and he’s an amazing competitor. Every point he’s competing. In the final of big tournaments, you have to take your chances in the big moments. I didn’t take it.”
Thiem is 13-1 record in February, winning Buenos Aires, Acapulco and reaching the semifinals in Rio de Janeiro. He has the most match wins on the 2016 ATP World Tour.
Tomic fell to 3-2 in career finals.
In the women’s final American Sloane Stephens edged former Australian Open finalist and 2014 Acapulco champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5).
Stephens, who has been much maligned in the U.S. media after stuttering to take the stage from the near-retirement Williams sisters, has now amassed two titles in 2016 after winning her debut at Auckland.
“I got a little bit better today because of her, and I wouldn’t want to have this memory with anyone else,” Stephens said of Cibulkova on court.
Stephens led Cibulkova by a set and a break but could not close out the 26-year-old. In the third-set tiebreak Stephens jumped to a 5-2 lead, closing out the Slovak on her third match point.
“I’m a little disappointed with the result today, but that’s tennis,” said Cibulkova, who fell to 4-8 in career finals, her last win at 2014 Acapulco. “I hope to be back here next year and maybe get the trophy again.”
Stephens improved to a perfect 3-0 in career finals.
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