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Tennis News • Dominic Thiem Flies Into First French Open Final In Paris

Dominic Thiem of Austria plays Marco Cecchinato of Italy during their men’s semi final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 08 June 2018. EPA-EFE/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO



By Richard Pagliario


Reconfiguring the red clay of Philippe Chatrier court into a blue print, Dominic Thiem built a breakthrough in Paris.


A clinical Thiem deconstructed 72nd-ranked Italian Marco Cecchinato, 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 roaring into his first Roland Garros final.


The seventh-seeded Thiem staved off three set points in the second set then suffocated Cecchinato in the third with oppressive baseline play.


Contesting his third straight Roland Garros semifinal, the 24-year-old Austrian was in no mood to play the waiting game.


“I think I have a pretty long career ahead, at the same time it’s time to step up for me and really go for the big titles,” Thiem told Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim. “Because at one point it’s gonna be too late. I want to have some of these big titles before I’m done with tennis.”


Thiem served 68 percent, dropped just six points on his first serve and denied three of four break points he faced in a match that featured just three breaks of serve.


The son of tennis coaches, Thiem raised his record to an ATP-best 35-8 becoming the first Austrian since Thomas Muster, who won the 1995 Roland Garros, to reach a Slam final.


The good news for Thiem is he grew stronger as this match progressed soaring into his first major final.


The bad news is Thiem has struggled against both of his potential French Open final opponents.


Though Thiem is the only man to toppled Rafael Nadal on clay in each of the last two years, both wins came in best-of-three set Masters matches.


The 10-time Roland Garros champion has won six of nine meetings with Thiem, including permitting just seven games in a 2017 Roland Garros semifinal thrashing.


Sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro is 4-0 vs. Thiem, including rallying from a two-set deficit in the US Open round of 16 last September.


Nerves are natural for a Slam semifinal debutante.


Contesting just the second semifinal of his career, Cecchinato showed the jitters dropping serve in the opening game. Thiem stamped a love hold to back up the break for 2-0.


Whipping the wide serve to set up the first strike, Thiem was untroubled rolling to a 4-2 lead.


In the eighth game, the Austrian fought off triple break point only to bungle a backhand volley on top of the net to face a fourth break point. This time, Cecchinato converted breaking back for 4-all.


Seeing Cecchinato deep in the court to return, Thiem pulled off a beautiful surprise serve-and-volley scraping out a drop volley for double set point.


A blurring serve down the T wrapped a one-set lead. Thiem served 74 percent in the 48-minute opener.


A fierce front-runner, Thiem was 27-1 when winning the opening set this season.


The Italian has fine feel and showed it deploying the drop shot to dig out of a double break point hole and hold for a 3-2 second-set lead.


Mixing his serve patterns, Thiem fired his fourth ace down the middle leveling after eight games.


Neither man could gain separation in a set that escalated into a tie break.


Bold second serves and a blistering forehand helped carry Thiem through a tense 16-minute tie break.


In a topsy-turvy tiebreak, the Austrian squandered a 6-3 lead then saved three set points.


A gutsy drop shot winner from Cecchinato, who loves that shot almost as much as Mansour Bahrami, saved a fourth set point evening the breaker at eight.


Thiem’s girlfriend, 2016 French Open doubles champion Kristina Mladenovic, exhorted him pointing a raised finger shouting “right now!” seated next to Thiem’s mom in the support box.


Staring down a second set point, Thiem went big and bold lashing a second serve off the line for 9-9. Two points later, Thiem denied a third set point with a brilliant backhand dropper of his own.


That sequence turned tie break around. A high return landed inside the baseline, Cecchinato mis-timed his forehand and netted it handing the Austrian a fifth set point.


This time, Thiem converted with a biting serve he drew an error taking a two set lead after one hour, 50 minutes.


The tiebreaker was a heartbreaker for Cecchinato, who looked spent by the start of the third set.


Seeing a steady diet of droppers left Thiem looking for that play and disarming Cecchinato with his own drop-shot answers.


Bursting out of the blocks, Thiem caught up to the dropper and re-dropped a winner breaking for 2-0.


Thiem streamed through a love hold backing up the break in the third game and leaving Cecchinato looking a little dazed two hours and five minutes into the match.


An empowered Thiem won 17 of the first 21 points of the third set securing a second break at love as a disconsolate Cecchinato tapped his black-and-yellow Babolat on the red clay as if ruing the set points that slipped away in that second-set breaker.


Downshifting into turbo-charge mode, Thiem raced out to a 5-0 lead before the Italian stalled his slide. Thiem saved two break points sealing a breakthrough major win in two hours, 17 minutes.


The 25-year-old Cecchinato received a rousing ovation from French fans as he departed and can look forward to waking up Monday morning rising to a career-high rank inside the Top 30.


Thiem shared a respectful embrace with Cecchinato then raised a clenched fist toward his box and coach Gunter Bresnik.

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