By Steve Gorten
KEY BISCAYNE – Dominic Thiem’s surprising run as an unseeded player at the 2015 Miami Open ended Wednesday, but the 21-year-old Austrian made Andy Murray labor for his berth in the men’s semifinals.
For the second consecutive day on stadium court, the third-seeded Murray needed three sets to advance – this time 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
“I expected a tough match,” Murray said. “He’s beaten some very good players this week already. He’s a very big hitter of the ball, a very strong guy and he moves extremely well. …Obviously, I would have liked to have started the match a little bit better, but with his game style, if you’re not right on it from the beginning, he’s an extremely tough guy to play against.”
Thiem came to the Miami Open with six losses already this year and a world ranking that had fallen to No. 52, yet managed to reach the quarterfinals of an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time in his career. He did so by beating Diego Schwartzman, Feliciano Lopez, Jack Sock and No. 28 seed Adrian Mannarino.
“Before this week, I would have given a lot for the quarterfinals, but now, of course, I’m a little bit disappointed, especially [since] I won the first set. I played a good match,” Thiem said. “But I will leave Miami positive, for sure, and with a good feeling for the clay court season.”
Thiem said the pivotal points of Wednesday’s match were when his serve was broken trailing 4-5 in the second set and early in the third set, when he again couldn’t hold serve.
“He won because he’s the better player. It’s very simple,” Thiem said. “I played a very good set, but if I could keep this level of the first set, I wouldn’t be [ranked] 50, I would be much higher. So I played to my limit.”
Thiem said he wore down physically as the match progressed.
“For Andy, this is business as usual if he’s in the quarters. For me, it was the first time. Of course, it’s a completely different thing for me, so I was for sure a little bit tired. I want to be in the quarters of last stages of a tournament often, so I have to get used to it.”
Murray now is one win away from reaching the final of the Miami Open for the fourth time. He won the tournament in 2009 and 2013. Murray said he tweaked his shoulder early in the match while hitting a forehand down the line. Then on a backhand volley, he felt some pain in his thumb. The pain was gone the next game, he said, adding, “I was more worried about it then.”
In doubles action during the day session, the top-seeded Bryan brothers, Mike and Bob, squeaked past Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 4-6, 10-6 on grandstand. They trailed in 5-2 and 6-4 in the super tiebreaker before rallying.
“It was an uncomfortable match. Both guys served really well and kept us off-balance all day,” said Bob Bryan. “We never felt that we had a rhythm. …We got a little string of luck there towards the end when we put a string of points together, and that was the difference. [Thursday] is going to be a similar match.”
In Thursday’s semifinal, the Bryans will face fellow Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey, who beat Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-3, 6-4 Wednesday. The Bryans are undefeated against Isner and Querrey, but have faced match points against them.
“We have a good record against them,” Mike Bryan said. “But I keep telling John the last couple of years, ‘You’re due, man.’ You can only beat someone so many times, and they’re going to play with no pressure. It seems like they have a great time when they’re out there, just laughing and joking around.”
Added Mike Bryan of playing Isner and Querrey: “It’s fun in that in the locker room we’re all laughing – basically until the first point starts – and then it’s not so fun when you see the first ace go by you.”
In women’s doubles, Czech tandem Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Monica Niculescu of Romania and Alexandra Panova of Russia 6-3, 7-5 to move on to the semifinals. Hlavackova and Hradecka will next face Russians Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who advanced with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-4 win against Caroline Garcia of France and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia.