Such a great week for Dominic Thiem, beating Federer in Masterful fashion, finding all kinds of form on the rough, choppy hard courts of Indian Wells.
This has a lot of meaning for me personally. For one, I’ve been rooting for this guy for a while, partly because of his OHBH, partly because of his class, his environmentalist activist class, his commitment to his tennis, his fight, etc.
But this is my local ATP tournament, as well. This is my access to the tour, an event liked by most if not all of the best players in the world, an event in good stewardship with the Oracle, a tournament that’s growing, that yearly brings such a solid field, with the grounds of a desert oasis’ delight.
And this is now Thiem’s first Masters, first big title. Sure I didn’t see the final in person, but I saw the form in the SF. I called his win over Raonic, knowing Thiem was seeing and hitting the ball well; and the courts, indeed, played to this man’s style of tennis ball obliteration. Sure he benefited from the W/O vs. Monfils, but that wouldn’t have mattered, apparently. With the ball up, with his new coaching presence in his box, his confidence rising, the smell of clay in the near distance, Thiem arrived to face Federer in the final at IW last Sunday and seized his moment.
Against Federer, no less.
If you watched this match and think Federer choked, you are a flat tennis moron. Federer’s only chance was for the 25 year-old Austrian to go into the tank. Domi dictated the entire match, really. Federer, the wily old veteran that he is, found that early break in the first, found just enough advantage on his serve in the first and third sets, and a few exchanges from the BL here and there, to make this interesting.
Federer looked brilliant in Dubai, and really pretty solid through the first four rounds here in IW, seemingly still ascendant vs Wawrinka and Edmund. But the 22 year-old Pol, Hurkacz in the QF made the Swiss a little nervous. The Pol’s power was threatening; he needs polish and a lot more tournament play, obviously. That match was on the verge a couple of times from getting very interesting.
These older tennis players have a definitive vulnerability against power tennis. That’s only natural and only demonstratively apparent in these ATP matches where Fed, Rafa and even Novak go H2H against some of this youthful power. Their legendary cunning and mastery usually gets them through these tougher and more and more difficult tests, especially in Djokovic’s case, even Nadal’s.
But this youthful power is getting more and more formidable. Clearly.
The Thiem vs Federer IW final is a good case in point. Darren Cahill was throwing-out some stats as Thiem continued to beat the baseline out of Federer throughout that match.
In short, Thiem, on average, hit his FH and BH harder than anyone on tour (in the top 20) in 2018. Think about that. He averaged from both wings last year around 85 mph from both wings. Again: averaged.
He was hitting his BH and FH at times in the 90s on Sunday. The adrenaline of this old soul is tennis genius: especially such power in such a soft-spoken champion.
Yes, the first SF (the only one I got to see on Saturday) was pretty moving. I wasn’t quite sure Thiem could overcome the growing confidence of Raonic, with that serve and the decent success on tour he’s had to lift him in such matches.
But Thiem, almost perfect early in the match, maintained the kind of steady and confident tennis that can be simply over-powering. As we know.
His DTL BH has become a head-shaking weapon. This court gave him time. The clay will give him time. If Thiem has time, he’s going to make you find a kind of defense that only a couple of players can find. He pushed Roger all over the court. Again, this wasn’t very close, in the end. If that makes sense.
Thiem was hitting his serve in the 130s.
His serve stats vs Raonic were near impeccable.
He’s got the chops to come in (we know I’ve encouraged that part of his game to only make him more dangerous, deadly, shorten points, etc.). He can volley, chip, play incredible defense and, again, absolutely destroy the ball from both wings from the BL.
I have a few thoughts on Federer and Nadal (maybe even Novak too — what of that odd week from the world #1?); of course I do, but let me get that out to you tomorrow.
We need to put the match and result from Federer into perspective and say, certainly, a few memorable things about our friend Rafa.
Needlesstosay, the Rafa injury almost ruined last Saturday.
Thiem saved the day and that is by no means an exaggeration, some kind of wordy hyperbole.
The cancellation makes the Thiem victory over Raonic even more memorable, more meaningful, a masterful prelude to his maiden Masters in Indian Wells against the Maestro.
Talk to you tomorrow.