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Ricky’s preview and pick for the Kitzbuhel final: Baez vs. Thiem

Dominic Thiem is in the final of an ATP Tour tournament for the the first time since beginning his comeback from a nine-month injury-related absence.

To say it wasn’t easy would be an understatement. In the semifinals of the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel on Friday, Thiem prevailed in front of his Austrian fans with a 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(8) victory over Laslo Djere. The match lasted an energy-sapping three hours and 30 minutes.

Presumably dealing with both physical and mental fatigue in advance of Saturday’s title match, Thiem will need all the help he can get from the crowd–especially with another tough opponent on the other side of the net. It’s Sebastian Baez who stands in the 29-year-old’s way of an 18th career ATP title. Baez booked his spot in the final by beating Hamad Medjedovic, Roberto Carballes Baena, Alex Molcan, and Tomas Martin Etcheverry while dropping just one set to Etcheverry in the semis.

Thiem hopes for the same support he got on Saturday, and he will definitely get it.

“I don’t know if I can still produce some good words,” the world No. 116 said during his on-court interview after saving five match points against Djere. “It was probably the longest best of three match I’ve ever played in my life, including when I was a kid. I think even then I didn’t play that long for a best-of-three match.

“It was a very tough and intense match. So close every set, every single game. I knew it straight from the beginning that it would be so close, first three or four games were 20, 25 minutes. It was just an incredible atmosphere again.”

The only previous encounter between Thiem and Baez came last fall on the clay courts of Bastad, where the Argentine won 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4.

Another competitive contest is likely in the cards, but the pressure is on Thiem since he has not won an ATP title since the 2020 U.S. Open. A three-hour and 30-minute struggle on Friday also doesn’t help.

Pick: Baez in 3

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