Dominic Thiem and David Goffin Just Made Kitzbuhel Bet-at-home Cup Very Relevant

Thiem

Photo courtesy of www.tennisworldusa.org

While the majority of the ATP Tour players  have moved on from Europe to the hard courts of the lucrative U.S Open Series, a few remain in the north-east of Austria, in the small town of Kitzbuhel, playing the ATP 250 event on clay, and not the ATP 500 in Washington on hard.

Clay is, as far as the ATP tour goes at the start of August, dead. It is, with the U.S Open less than four weeks away, all about the hard courts now. But this week at least, for the likes of Juan Monaco, Andreas Seppi, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem, clay is very much alive. All those men could have gone to the U.S when the Series began a couple of weeks ago and plied their trade where it made sense. But they chose not to. And for the last two men in that list, the decision was a good one.

Whereas in Washington, these two back-court heavy-hitting shot-makers might have fallen early to players of the ilk of Berdych and Raonic, in Kitzbuhel they have managed to go deep in the draw, right to the very end almost, and take the big points and prizes. Kitzbuhel is happy they came, too. For these two players, one of them, Thiem, a homeboy, just did the weirdly scheduled event a big favor- they made it relevant. Very.

Goffin

Photo courtesy of www.grantland.com

Thiem, 20, and Goffin, 23, are members of the ATP’s next big things, a group the ATP Tour and tennis fans are waiting for to dance across the big stages as eagerly as One Direction fans await their idols in Arenas around the world. Goffin, from Belgium, has been on that list for a while, ever since his gatecrashing of the French Open in 2012 where as a lucky loser he made the fourth round and took a set of Roger Federer. Since then, he has struggled to achieve anything as stellar, but the last few weeks have seen his stock rise again, embarking on a 19 match winning streak since Wimbledon, as his fine touch and ground-strokes have returned to form, and he may have recovered from the sophomore slump suffered by so many talented newbies who burst onto the big stage before they were ready.

Thiem has been on the tip of pundits tongues for a while now, too, but this year he has really been making some noise, and had the pundits screaming, none louder than when he beat reigning Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round of Madrid. The former Junior world no.2 and 2011 junior French Open runner up has the talent and shots to repeat that success, if not better it, in the senior ranks.

That the two should choose Kitzbuhel over Washington is not too surprising considering their clay success, and for Thiem, the event is in his homeland, and his presence there will have generated great interest and brought in the fans. And Goffin, ranked 78 to Thiem’s 50, would have likely had to qualify for entry into the American ATP 500 event.

It was in qualifying where these two had their one and only meeting om clay. In Acapulco this year Goffin edged Thiem 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1). Their only other meeting was this year at Queen’s on grass which Goffin took 6-4, 6-2.

This meeting has the potential to be as exciting as their Acapulco one.  Thiem, the fifth seed, is match fit after squeezing past Souza in the first round 7-5 in the third, winning a competitive match against Vesel 6-3, 7-6 (3), beating second seed and defending champion Marcel Granollers in straights and then thrashing in-form and 2013 finalist Juan Monaco in the semis. Meanwhile, Goffin knocked out top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round, swept past Lorezi in the next one, and then beat Gonzales in three to make the final.

For both men, this will be their first ATP final, and it will be an important stage on their journey up the rankings and into the history books. It will certainly be a final worth watching as these two talented players with games that shine on clay could be facing off in much bigger, more glamorous finals later on, and those lucky fans who caught them now can say they saw it first in Kitzbuhel, the first weekend of August 2014, of all times and places.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

 

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