Thiem Tumbles Out Of Australian Open, Djokovic OK, Karatsev Continues Run; Nadal v Fognini Mon.
by Staff | February 14th, 2021, 2:10 pm
  • 49 Comments

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) [5]
VEKIC, Donna (CRO) [28] vs. BRADY, Jennifer (USA) [22]
Not before: 3:00 PM
FOGNINI, Fabio (ITA) [16] vs. NADAL, Rafael (ESP) [2]
7:00 PM
BARTY, Ashleigh (AUS) [1] vs. ROGERS, Shelby (USA)
TSITSIPAS, Stefanos (GRE) [5] vs. BERRETTINI, Matteo (ITA) [9]


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49 Comments for Thiem Tumbles Out Of Australian Open, Djokovic OK, Karatsev Continues Run; Nadal v Fognini Mon.

Thangs Says:

Fake injury…Shame drama number 1


Milos Says:

I guess that Novak’s opponents get worried so much about his injury, that they can’t beat an obviously injured player. What a bunch of sore losers…


Wog Boy Says:

“ In a surprising quarterfinal, Thiem will now face the little-known qualifier Aslan Karatsev. ”

Staff, the only thing Thiem is facing now is long flight back to Austria (14 hours to Dubai and 5 hours to Vienna), plenty of time to think why Dimitrov has upper hands on HCs.


Raj Says:

We are lucky to watch a number 1 player playing through injuries. What a player..


Dave Says:

I had a feeling Massu not being able to be with Thiem would have an effect on him. Thiem plays way better when Massu is present for tournaments.


skeezer Says:

Never saw an athlete play through a tournament winning with an abdominal muscle tear. What a hero. Amazing. I want his medicine.


Miloš Says:

His medicine wouldn’t help your condition. It must be an honor being on Nick kirgyos side, you know you are on the right side of history then.


Milos Says:

I don’t think his medicine would help your condition. It must feel good being on the same side as Nick Kirgyos. You two shoud join forces and tweet together in unison!


chrisford1 Says:

This is a tough time for Skeezer. His idol Fed’s 2 biggest records could both fall in the next few weeks.
Nadal takes the AO, he goes to 21 Majors.
Djokovic passes him with 311 weeks at #1.


mat4 Says:

This tournament could really be a sign of the changing of the guard. Novak is injured, I read that Rafa is injured too, and I do not see how they can make it to the finals. It would have been difficult even if they were peaking.

There has been a slow but evident shift in tennis lately. First, the new generation of players are taller and heavier. They also play with lighter racquets (about 20 gr in avg.). It gives them more potent serves, but on the other side, they are a bit less consistent in rallies. A surface like this one, at the AO, fits their games perfectly.

Both Novak and Rafa understood the trend. Novak lightened his racquet and changed its balance to serve harder and have a more potent FH. Rafa worked on his serve and tries consistently to shorten points.

In normal conditions, Novak and Rafa still would be able to count on their ability to run longer. It is one thing to play over 5 sets for a player weighting 80 kg, and another for a player 195+ cm tall and weighting 95-100 kg. A lot of tennis commentators speak about experience when it is only a question of physiology. But Novak is clearly injured, and we will see. He could perhaps create another sensation, win another match, but win three… I doubt it. Rafa has to face Tsitsipas, then Medvedev or Rublev. It would be very difficult even if he was fully healthy.


mat4 Says:

A difficult beginning for Novak, broken in the first game. I really do not see how he can win this match, in these conditions.


mat4 Says:

Novak seems to be playing a bit better, at least reading better Zverev’s serves and placing his serves a bit better. But Sascha’s first serve % is the key in this match. If he manages to have 75% of first serves, he is the clear favourite. Otherwise, Novak could have a chance.


mat4 Says:

… And, just had a look at the stats: Sascha is serving 55% of FS in the second set, winning 17% of them.


mat4 Says:

Novak again in a difficult situation.


Van Persie Says:

mat4,

Nice to read you again :)

Nole is again in control. Hope, he keeps it up. Not his best match, but a win would be a win :)


Anto Says:

This match is the perfect example to show that Zverev isn’t winning a GS anytime soon. He doesn’t have the mental strength to keep his focus for a 5 set match against the top players.

Also I get that he was some ailments in his stomach in this Fritz match, but how many of here thinks he actually has a muscle tear. He doesn’t look like someone who have muscle tear.


Van Persie Says:

“Also I get that he was some ailments in his stomach in this Fritz match, but how many of here thinks he actually has a muscle tear. He doesn’t look like someone who have muscle tear.”

Very true, Anto, but please note, the ATP trainer was in a hurry to tell him, it might be a muscle tear ;)


mat4 Says:

Zverev’s problem is not his mental strength, but his style of play and physique. He tires more easily: he is 198 cm tall, 100+ kg, and it affects its play. The other thing is his approach: he usually keeps the ball in the middle of the court, avoiding to open angles, and counterpunches. Sometimes, it is simply not enough.

He is indeed nervous in some situations, but all players are tense, nervous in some situations. Pro tennis is first and foremost a game of nerves, and facing one of the two, three toughest competitors of all times is exceptionally stressing. Let’s give Novak some credits here.

Meanwhile, this match is far from over.


Anto Says:

@Van Persie, well if the ATP trainer did tell him that it might be a muscle tear, then Djokovic shouldn’t be telling it definitely is a muscle tear. He at least should have said he will have to do some further assessment before saying anything.


Anto Says:

Well zverev up a break again, Now watch him gift the break back.


mat4 Says:

Novak certainly looks injured, even in this match. He goes for the FH DTL all the time, to get a ball for the BH CC. He avoids FH CC rallies as much as he can. He does not hit his FH hard, and his rotation is often incomplete.

Is it a muscle tear? With today’s painkillers, it could even be. But while Novak said that he thought it was a tear after the match, I did not hear him confirm it.


Anto Says:

@mat4, its easy to have “mental strength” against people who are not as skilled as you. It when you come against people who are either better than you or who are is the same level as you, you should be able to hold your nerves. Thats the hard part. He fails big time here.

Btw look at the double faults he does on break points. That is a clear indication of that


Anto Says:

@mat4, the fact that you “didn’t not hear” him confirm that shows your bais for him clouding your judgement. This is what he said in the on court interview.

“I know it’s a tear, definitely, of the muscle. So I don’t know if I’ll manage to recover from that in less than two days. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to step out onto the court or not,”


Van Persie Says:

Do not really know, what it is, but he makes mistakes, like he would be injured. I do not think, he loses sets on purpose :D


Anto Says:

Zverev missing a couple of break points to go up 2 breaks. This is going to go come back and bite him


Anto Says:

@Van Persie,

There definitely was an issue in his Fritz match. But I don’t’ see anything wrong in Roanic match or this match.


Anto Says:

And he gifts it back as I was saying. That too with lots of second serves. He is so bad at this mental department.


Anto Says:

With the amount of skill Zverev has, he should be doing far better in GSs than what he is so far done. Its his inability to handle nerves which is keeping him from playing his best tennis.


Van Persie Says:

Anto,

I did not see the Raonic match, I was lucky enough to be allowed to go in a ski trip for the weekend :D

But I do know, when healthy, he can do better. mat4 explained it very well.

Perhaps it does not look injured to you, as you normally want him to lose, and you are expecting him to do worse :D..thats what I also did, when I watched Rafa play (after he said, he had back issues), so I know the feeling :)


mat4 Says:

@Anto:

No, the bias for Novak does not cloud my judgement, although, yes, I am a Novak fan. But I am old enough to know that speaking in a foreign language, after a match that lasted 3+ hours, people are not really precise. It is not a dissertation there. Novak felt it was a tear, it was obviously very painful, and so what?

And a guy who is/was no 3 in the world, nobody can tell me that he has no mental strength. To be here, he has to be extremely resilient. You saw Rafa losing without a fight in the final of the AO 2019, and Novak been unable to relax in the final of last year FO — it simply happens to anyone. Federer at WB in TBs, eg. It is so easy to be an armchair general. These boys deserve much more respect than they get. But, I guess, it is the strange and ugly side of fandom.


Anto Says:

@Van Persie, just because he “can” play better when not injured doesn’t mean that he can player better than that “all the time” (when not injured). This is evident by the number of times he plays badly and even win most of the time)

Also with Rafa, he said he had back issues and never did he mention how bad it was (unlike Djokovic who was sure it was a muscle tear). Not only that he did mention he is feeling better since the Norrie match.


mat4 Says:

Difficult, tense match so far, with lots of suspense. Zverev is so long… huge, making all these gets.

Let’s see what will happen.


Anto Says:

@mat4, the first paragraph is very laughable. And proves my point about your bias clouding your judgement. If it was Nadal with his foreign language talk you may have a point. But to
“know” that Novak never meant what he said (and he is pretty good at English, never forget that) does takes the cake.

As with your second paragraph, I Never said he doesn’t have this mental strength. I simple said when he is up against top players in GS, its severely lacking. Also what happened in AO 2019 is totally not the same type of thing we are taking about. These are not somethings which happens regularly. With Zverev it is very frequent.

Just to be clear I really like Zverev. That doesn’t mean I can’t criticise a part of his game. AKA his mental strength


Anto Says:

@mat4, there is nothing to see here (as far as the result is concerned. But the match can still be watched because of the quality of it). Zverev might take this 4th set (that also is not a guarantee). But he ain’t winning the 5th set.


mat4 Says:

@Anto:

This match is not over yet. And watching tennis for the sake of tennis is good enough for me.


mat4 Says:

@Van Persie:

Long time, no see. I was spending too much time on the net. But I will continue to comment here. It is much quieter than it was.


mat4 Says:

I say to myself that I will not watch Novak’s matches any more, it is too much for my heart, but…

Anyway, an excellent match. I think the combo surface/balls is a bit too quick, but that gives Novak a chance in these circumstances. Zverev missed his chances in the third and fourth sets, and he has to change his mindset, be a little bit more aggressive and dictate when he leads. But he is only 23, and there is still place to grow. He has made a jump in the last two years, making consistently the later rounds of slams, but he perhaps needs an easy path, some luck to make the final step.

Novak was very resilient after the loss of the first set, manages to use Zverev’s lack of focus at the beginning of the second set and fought his back. His return is really impressive, and I cannot stop marveling at it.


mat4 Says:

… managed… his way back… etc. Sorry for the typos.


mat4 Says:

Sorry for the typos, I meant: … managed… his way back… etc.


Van Persie Says:

mat4,

This place is Heaven for Nole fans, as long as he’s winning ;)

Am now a bit nervous for the Karatsev match.


mat4 Says:

@Van Persie:

I am always nervous, but I did not watch Karatsev so far. He certainly plays well judging by his results, and I am very happy that a foot soldier of tennis has made it to the semi. Anyway, they are all good, and the differences are so small. Anto is right on this point: it becomes exclusively mental from a point, but here too, the margins are so tiny.

I hope that Nole will be able to recover and play the next matches at his top level, otherwise it will be impossible to win. All four qfinalists in the other half are great players, able to beat anybody on any surface. I hope for long and grueling matches in the qf and semi on this side of the draw as a Nole fan. I know it is nasty but, like I already wrote, fandom is a strange place.


Van Persie Says:

Yes, We’ll see on Thursday. Karatsev will play without fear, I am sure. he has nothing to lose. Should be a good match


Dave Says:

I just can’t see Djokovic losing in the Semifinals. He will benefit greatly having the extra day off before the finals. He will be totally ready. The other side of the draw has to play 7 matches in 13 days. Plus Medvedev and Rublev won the ATP Cup and played a lot of tennis until Sunday. Medvedev has the weakest forehand I can remember seeing from a player that’s 6’6. Mat4 made some good points about these taller players. I’ve been thinking this for awhile about Medvedev. Purposely trying to frustrate his opponents by getting into as many long rallies as he can is going to come back to bite him. And sometimes does during a match and completely backfires when the other player isn’t rattled by it and outlasts Medvedev instead. Examples Gilles Simon. RBA before the US Open. The guys that have the cardio and can hang with him from the back of the court will always have a chance against Medvedev. I’m not completely sold on Medvedev yet. He has gone on 2 hot runs in his career that basically make up most of his big accomplishments. He has to prove more than that before I’m completely sold on him. For a really tall player, he has a forehand comparable to Coric. He just has a lot of other weapons to cover it up.


skeezer Says:

CF1
Why are you worried about Fed? LOL…


skeezer Says:

Anyone noticed the wrap on Z’s abdomen during the match? He was obviously bothered by it but never mentioned…/s


mat4 Says:

@Skeez:

Hello, old boy!

But, about Zverev: yes, he spoke about it, and he was mildly bothered at the beginning of the AO from what I heard from Benoit Maylin.


skeezer Says:

Hey there Mat4,
Good to have you back!


chrisford1 Says:

Phew!
Then I am glad to get the impression that you will be the 1st to congratulate Rafa if he gets 21 winning the AO (and the 1st double career slam)
Followed of course by Djokovic being #1 for the longest time in the sport. 311 weeks. Under a month, now. Would have had it accomplished half a year ago but for the Covid freeze.


skeezer Says:

“Nadal takes the AO, he goes to 21 Majors.”
“… you will be the 1st to congratulate Rafa if he gets 21 winning the AO (and the 1st double career slam)”
Phew!


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