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Austrian Tennis Star Dom Thiem Wins In Doha, Gael Monfils French Sensation Awaits In Semifinals

Gael Monfils of France in action against Peter Gojowczyk of Germany during their quater final of the ATP Qatar Open Tennis tournament at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, 04 January 2018. EPA-EFE/NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

 

 

By Ricky Dimon

 

Dominic Thiem of Austria in action against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during their quarter final of the ATP Qatar Open Tennis tournament at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, 04 January 2018. EPA-EFE/NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

Dominic Thiem booked a spot in his first hard-court semifinal since 2016 when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-4 at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Thursday night. Thiem fired seven aces, saved six of seven break points, and broke Tsitsipas three times before advancing in one hour and 40 minutes.

 

“I was serving well again today and returning well,” the top-seeded Austrian assessed. “That’s what I was working on in the offseason, so it already pays off now…. [Tsitsipas is] already so good at a young age. I think he’s going to be for sure a top player in the near future. He’s playing very well, aggressive with a good service, (and a) nice one-handed backhand.”

 

Another up-and-coming NextGen player reached the semis, as Andrey Rublev beat Borna Coric 6-3, 7-5.

 

“I was feeling the ball well,” Rublev commented. “I knew since the beginning of the match that I have to try to dictate the points. I have to try to attack. I have to try to lead, but I have to try to do it with a good position. That was the key.”

 

Friday’s semifinals will pit Thiem against Gael Monfils and Rublev against Guido Pella.

 

Thiem and Monfils will be squaring off for the fourth time in their careers. All three of their previous meetings have gone Thiem’s way; he won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 at the 2015 Umag event, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 at the 2016 World Tour Finals in London, and 6-3, 6-2 last year in Indian Wells. Hard courts have never been the world No. 5’s favorite, so those two recent hard-court defeats of Monfils bode especially well for his prospects on Friday. So do his three Doha matches up to this point, as Thiem did not drop a single set while ousting Evgeny Donskoy, Aljaz Bedene, and Tsitsipas.

 

Monfils had not played since the U.S. Open due to his recurring physical issues, so just reaching the semis is a relative success to begin 2018. The Frenchman advanced to this stage by taking out Paolo Lorenzi, Jan-Lennard Struff, and Peter Gojowycz. Monfils appeared to be on course for his third consecutive three-setter of the week, but he saved a set point in stunning fashion and held off Gojowycz 6-3, 7-6(6).

 

It will be an all-unseeded affair when Rublev and Pella meet for the first time in their careers. Rublev’s appearance in the semis is somewhat less surprising than that of his opponent because the 20-year-old Russian really took off in 2017. Rublev reached the U.S. Open quarters and that is a big reason why he is basically a lock for Aussie Open seeding (he will officially clinch a seed if he prevails on Friday). He has advanced in Doha with victories over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Fernando Verdasco, and Coric.

 

Pella failed to win a main-draw match at any of his last three events during the 2017 campaign, but he is off to a strong start this year. The Argentine earned his place in the last four by beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Stefano Travaglia, and Mirza Basic. Needless to say, that constitutes just about an ideal draw for Pella. Facing Rublev as deep as the semis is not a bad draw, either, but the youngster has far more firepower.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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