Roland Garros Third Round Preview Dominic Thiem Vs Alexander Zverev
The Austrian and German, if their early pro careers are anything to go by, are going to be competing in later rounds in Paris in the future, with the trophy likely on the line.
Both these players have great clay court games. Thiem has real weapons in his forehand and one-handed backhand. Zverev has a formidable backhand, potentially an all-time great shot.
Both men can serve well, too, hitting through the clay, and earning short balls, giving them an advantage over the game’s great returners who do so well on Clay.
Thiem and Zverev both also have a lot of talent which expresses itself in some fine touch at the net and in drop shots.
Clay is where both men have had a lot of their early success. Thiem has five clay court titles on his resume, all won since Nice 2015, while Zverev broke out as a 17 year old making a run to the Hamburg ’14 semis. They also win a lot for their age groups. Thiem, aged 22, is 38-10 this season, second behind Djokovic, and is ranked 13 while 19 year old Zverev is 23-13 and is ranked 41.
Clay is also the only surface where both men have played one another in ATP matches. Thiem leads the head to head 2-0 with both those victories coming this clay season. The two matches went three sets, too, in the Munich semis and the Nice final.
Watch highlights of Thiem-Zverev in the Munich semis below:
In both matches, Thiem’s greater experience and maturity were the crucial factors in helping him get the win. Zverev can get emotional and his game can suddenly flip from finely timed backhands to baffling errors, as was seen in the Nice final when after taking the second set, he lost the final set to love.
Zverev, however, is a fighter, too, a trait he has shown time and again this season. That aspect of his game is what makes this Roland Garros meeting so intriguing. Five sets means there will be ample opportunity to fight back against the more polished Thiem and the occasion is sure to inspire the teen contesting his first third round of a Slam.
The match also now has an added dose of pressure- with Nadal’s withdrawal, their is a much stronger chance for the winner, who was scheduled to meet Nadal in the last sixteen, to make the semi-finals where an encounter with top seed Novak Djokovic could await.
Lucky loser Marcel Granollers is the scheduled last sixteen opponent for the victor of this last 32 contest. Thiem leads the Spaniard 3-0 while Zverev is 1-1 with the Spaniard, avenging a loss in Monte Carlo this season with a win in Nice.
Thiem is likely to feel the pressure the most. The Austrian has been highly-touted this season, but under-performed at the big events, letting multiple break points slip versus Djokovic and Nadal in big matches. The Austrian is the favorite going into this match, a high profile one, too considering both men’s status in their generations, and how he handles that pressure on the big points will be critical for both men.
The five set format and the occasion could bring out hidden depths in either man, and this match between good friends could go either way considering those aspects, but Thiem’s experience at this stage of both their careers is likely to be the deciding factor which sees him across the line and into his second slam last sixteen, his first since the US Open 2014.
Whatever happens, we can be pretty certain that this will not be the last time we will see the Thiem-Zverev rivalry played out at Roland Garros, and this first outing will give us an intriguing glimpse into the future of the business end of the tournament. A future which, at an event Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are now both absent from before the end of the third round, starts now.
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