Dominic Thiem laid an egg against Grigor Dimitrov. The Austrian star barely showed up against Dimitrov in a listless 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 loss in the fourth round Sunday at the Australian Open.
Thiem had lost two straight to the Bulgarian, but the World No. 3 had won the US Open and made the finals in Melbourne a year ago. However, there was none of that fighting spirit Thiem showed in those runs or from his exciting run Friday night against Nick Kyrgios.
After a tight first 45 minutes, Dimitrov had his way, and even asked Thiem at the net at the end of the match if he was okay.
“I think the key was that I was able to keep a consistency throughout the whole match,” said Dimitrov who made the 2017 Australian Open semifinals. “I was playing well. He was up a break in both sets. It was 3-1, 40/15 in the first set. I could have easily slipped that set.”
It was one of Thiem’s worst losses in recent years.
“I think a combination of things, some little physical issues, plus a real bad day, plus the fact that he’s a great player,” said Thiem who was without his coach, Nicolas Massu, at the event. “If he’s on, he’s super tough to play, especially in faster conditions than now, and I really wish that he can make a great breakthrough at a Grand Slam. He would definitely deserve it.”
In a surprising quarterfinal, Thiem will now face the little-known qualifier Aslan Karatsev. The 27-year-old Russian came from two sets down to stun Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
After getting blown out in the first two sets, it looked like the fairytale run was over. It wasn’t.
Karatsev got his serve and heavy forehand working while the Canadian had no answers and perhaps suffered under the weight of being a huge favorite on the world No. 114 who had never even played a Grand Slam match before this week. Karatsev bullied his way back into the match and eventually broke the spirit of the Canadian.
“It was really tough in the beginning to play with him,” Karatsev said on court “He’s a really good player and he’s playing really fast. It took me two sets to find a way how to play.
“I play aggressively, try to play more aggressive style, like going for big serves, and to work the points as short as I can,” said Karatsev. “I don’t like long points and behind the baseline that much. Try to stay close to the line.”
After an 0-7 start to his career in finals, Auger-Aliassime blows a 2-set lead for the first time.
“For sure lots of positives to take from that tournament. It’s really a shame that I couldn’t get through today. It’s difficult to swallow, but it’s tennis, that’s how it is, life, and honestly it can only help me in the future,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It’s the first time I played five sets, first time this happens to me, maybe not the last one. We’ll see, but I’ll just try to learn from that and be better next time.”
For Karatsev, with wins over two seeds already, why not Dimitrov too? Dimitrov, who hasn’t dropped a set, will be on guard.
“I will treat this match no differently,” said Dimitrov talk about Karatsev. “I will still go through my routines. I’m still going to do my work. It’s just honestly another match. I’m not going to think of what the guy has done, what he has accomplished or what is going on. Clearly, in order for him to be here, he’s done something right, and he’s playing great tennis right now. Of course, he’s a dangerous player.”
Alexander Zverev continues to quietly play some of his best tennis. The German who made the semifinals at the Australian Open last year, is back in the quarters after easing past Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3.
Albeit he’s had a good draw, Zverev has won 12 straight sets en route to his 5th career Grand Slam quarterfinal.
His good draw changes ahead with Novak Djokovic now looming. The Serb shrugged off what he called a tear on his right side to win his 300th career Grand Slam match and beat Milos Raonic for a 12th time 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.
After the match, Djokovic talked about the injury which didn’t seem to bother him apart from a few winces and stretches.
“I had no preparation for this match,” said Djokovic. “I used every hour I had to recover since the Taylor match. My physio and those of the ATP and Australian Open gave me their best support to get on the court. I have definitely been fitter in the past and I will continue to take each day one at a time.
Djokovic will have another 48 hours to recover before heading into the match with Zverev who he leads 5-2.
“Sascha is one of the top men’s players in the past five years,” said Djokovic. “He has won the ATP Finals title and is an established Top 10 player. He has the weapons, a big serve and moves well for his height. We played an exhausting match at the ATP Cup recently and I won’t expect anything less when we meet in the quarterfinals.”
Added Zverev, “You’ve got to play your best tennis, especially here. This is his favorite court, this is his favorite tournament. To be able to have a chance against him, you have to be playing extremely well. You have to be playing aggressive tennis, being the one that dominates. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s one of the toughest challenges in our sport.”
On Monday, with his back injury all but behind, Rafael Nadal resumes his rivalry against Fabio Fognini. The Italian has four wins over Nadal but it’s been over five years since Fognini has won on a hard court.
“We played a lot of times, beat me a couple of times,” said Nadal. “He came here after an injury, so he will be hungry to play well. Aa very impressive victory today against De Minaur. I saw in straight sets, so he will come into the match with plenty of confidence. I need to keep improvement. You don’t expect an easy round in the Round of 16. It is going to be a tough one. I need to be ready for it and I hope this can happen.”
Russian Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will be favored to meet in the quarters. Medvedev meed American Mackenzie McDonald while Rublev draws Caspur Ruud.
And in good one, Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Matteo Berrettini.
MONDAY AUSTRALIAN OPEN SCHEDULE
Rod Laver Arena – 11:00 AM
PEGULA, Jessica (USA) vs. SVITOLINA, Elina (UKR) 
VEKIC, Donna (CRO)  vs. BRADY, Jennifer (USA) 
Not before: 3:00 PM
FOGNINI, Fabio (ITA)  vs. NADAL, Rafael (ESP) 
BARTY, Ashleigh (AUS)  vs. ROGERS, Shelby (USA)
TSITSIPAS, Stefanos (GRE)  vs. BERRETTINI, Matteo (ITA) 
You Might Like:
Karatsev Claims First Title In Dubai, Beats Harris
Home Favorite Djokovic Leads New Belgrade Tournament; Berrettini, Karatsev In Draw
Karatsev Knocks Out Musetti, Meets Tsitsipas Tues At Monte Carlo Masters; Fognini Opens Defense
Rublev Wins 23rd Straight At 500 Level In Dubai, Karatsev Sacks Sinner
Former Champions Thiem, Schwartzman Headline ATP Rio