Dominic Thiem was made to work hard in his opening match at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday, but he fought well to overcome Vitaliy Sachko 6-4, 7-5 in Vienna.
The World No. 3 landed 20 winners and won nine of 13 net points to improve to 14-8 at the ATP 500. Thiem was regularly tested from late in the first set by Sachko, who broke the second seed on four occasions on his tour-level debut.
“The match was not easy at all. I heard pretty late last night that I was not going to play Kei [Nishikori] and that I was going to play Vitaliy,” said Thiem. “Of course, the past days I was practising towards Kei, preparing for Kei. I know him, we already had five matches. Suddenly, [I was] playing against an opponent who already had two good matches in qualifying, who maybe I only saw for two minutes on TV.”
Thiem is competing for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month. The 6’1” right-hander is seeking his third straight trophy in Austria, following consecutive title runs on home soil last year in Kitzbühel and Vienna.
“I wanted to present myself well in front of the home crowd and to find the right match intensity,” said Thiem. “The high match intensity was not easy and he was playing well, especially from the moment I was 5-1 up in the first set. From that moment on, I thought it was a pretty close and decent match. I am very happy with how I closed it out and how I found a pretty good intensity towards the end of the match.”
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Thiem began the match in peak form, as he ripped groundstroke winners from the baseline and overpowered his opponent to stride into a 5-1 lead. But the Austrian lost his concentration and was dragged into a battle by Sachko, who began to find his range on his return to break Thiem’s serve on three consecutive occasions.
The US Open champion raised his level in the second set, as he varied the pace on his backhand and attacked with his forehand to open a 4-1 lead. Despite dropping serve for a fourth time, Thiem produced an impressive finish to close the match at 6-5. The second seed ended consecutive rallies with backhand winners up the line to book his spot in the second round.
Cristian Garin recovered from the disappointment of losing a marathon second-set tie-break to beat Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3. The Chilean, who led the tie-break 4/1, saved all five break points he faced to earn his 18th victory of the season (18-11).
“The match was unreal. I played at a very high level, so I am very happy to be in the next round,” said Garin in an on-court interview.”
Garin levelled his ATP Head2Head series against Wawrinka at 1-1, having lost his only previous match against the Swiss at Roland Garros last year. Wawrinka, the 2007 runner-up, was making his first appearance in Vienna since 2008. Garin will meet Thiem for the first time in the second round.
“Dominic is one of the great players that I look [at] a lot,” said Garin. “For me, it is a great match.”