By Mark Poulose
KEY BISCAYNE - Unseeded Dominic Thiem entered his fourth round match on Tuesday with just six wins to his name in 2015. The 21-year-old Austrian visited Miami losing four out of his last five matches, and had seen his ranking drop to No. 52 in the world.
However, Thiem has found his game near the beaches of Key Biscayne, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 victory over 28-seed Adrian Mannarino. The win placed Thiem in his first quarterfinal at a Masters 1000 event.
“It’s very nice [to reach the quarterfinals at a Masters 1000],” said Thiem. “Last year, I had a chance at Madrid but I got sick before the round of 16. But I have made it here in Miami, which may be the fifth grand slam, so it’s just been an unbelievable experience.”
It was a closely contested three set match, with both players winning 94 points total. Each player broke the other twice, and the first set tie breaker was decided 7-5.
“Today was a match between two players in good form at the tournament,” said Thiem. “For both of us, it would have been our first time in the quarterfinals, so both of us fought until the end. I may have been just a little bit luckier.”
His talent showed throughout the match against the veteran Mannarino. Thiem, who plays right-handed and employs a one-handed backhand, powered his way through rallies.
Thiem plays with a modern baseline attack and often hits heavy topspin, but also shows the ability to attack the net authoritatively. His one-handed backhand is already among the best on tour, and, at just 21 years of age, he has flashed the potential, but not the consistency, to be able to compete at the game’s highest levels.
The 21-year-old ended last season as the youngest player in the top 50, and as the No. 1 ranked Austrian for the first time. Last season, he qualified for a tour-high seven events, and reached his first ATP tour final.
It has also been a year of firsts for Mannarino.
He reached his first ATP World Tour final in Auckland, his first round of 16 match at a Masters 1000 event, and advanced past the second round of the Miami Open for the first time. Mannarino was also coming off his first top ten win of his career, besting 8-seed Stan Wawrinka in the third round. The 26-year-old Frenchman entered Miami ranked 32nd in the world, the highest of his career.
“I have won a lot of matches the last six months,” Mannarino said. “Confidence is on my side, and I have been working a lot on my game. It’s been working, too, in matches so I hope it can continue.”
His appearance in the fourth round here was his second appearance in the fourth round of a Masters 1000 event. Since May 2014, Mannarino has raised his ranking an astounding 70 places to sit firmly in the top 50.
Thiem will face fourth-seeded Andy Murray who came off his 500th match win, defeating Kevin Anderson 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.