Thiem/Kyrgios and the QFs

In wrapping-up that Thiem vs Kyrgios post, the match was a bit, like I said in that first post, surreal.

The crowd, for instance, brought us back to some of that pre-Covid normalcy of sporting events. Kyrgios had the crowd going wild and this only added to his early ascendant form that propelled him to 2-0 set lead.

But as I said, he started to cool-off and subsequently got a little frustrated in that third set, getting broken early, and the match making a little turn in momentum. This is not a surprise for a Bo5. And we finished that first post with the point that Thiem is a Bo5 artist, if you will, one who finds his muse in these longer tennis liturgies. He started to find some energy and some hope that coincided with Kyrgios’ return-to-earth.

Long-story-short: Thiem goes on to win in five, as you know, and the tennis got very interesting, touch-and-go on who would seize final control of this match. Thiem’s serve was so solid as the match wore-on and though his ROS had much to be desired, standing so many feet behind the BL almost Nadal-like, so long as he got the Kyrgios serve back in court, the Austrian moved forward, like the Spaniard, getting the rally to neutral before more often than not establishing leverage as these guys exchanged heavy ground strokes, interrupted by the slice-and-dice variety, coupled with competent net play and creative drop shots. The match was simply very very entertaining once Thiem “arrived” to the John Cain Arena for this highly anticipated match (nice of you to join us, Domi).

Surreal, like I said, given the crowd . . . with this intriguing R32 meeting. This was a last hurrah for the Melbourne tennis faithful given the curfew set to be implemented a few hours after the conclusion of this match (due to another city-wide lockdown — no more fans in attendance for at least the next five days).

Given this backdrop, again the tennis had tremendous competitive balance in the final three sets. These two guys have such different emotional worlds, strategic approaches to the game, and to their careers. The respect was mutual, seen in the “handshake” at the end, warm and fitting for such a grind. Physically, the match probably didn’t wreck these guys given we were at about the 3 hour 20 minute mark, I believe. But emotionally they were spent. Must have been, I guess.

We suspect this from the odd straight-set collapse Thiem suffered in his next match at the hands of Dimitrov.

As I said earlier, I felt old as I quietly applauded Thiem and Kyrgios at the close of this match. Old because I was proud, I guess.

Proud of Domi for the comeback, for staying the course, for finding a way. He went deep into his bag. This felt good as a supporter of the Austrian because of how he should have won this, should have played to his level, finally, should have recalled all of those long Bo5 encounters, such as that more recent one in New York City where he had to come back from 0-2 in that championship Final against Zverev.

Closing-out the match on his first MP was a great way to finish this Kyrgios match. That inside-out BH DTL, over that high part of the net, such a difficult shot, hit so well, coming forward, ending this match on a perfect note.

Proud of Nick, too. He didn’t implode. He played a great B05 match with enough class to make this a classic.

You wonder if it was worth the wait, staying-up until almost 4 in the morning. I felt good. Maybe this lifts Thiem, puts him on a trajectory to go win this major, his second in a row, with Rafa and Djoker lurking. Could it be?

But we’re left to wonder at this point. Thiem’s loss to Dimtrov yesterday 4 4 and 0 is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Some of this concern came-up at the start of the Kyrgios match. What the fuck was happening with this 3-seed at the start of that match? We defended him given Kyrgios’ national pride, comfort zone and talented game.

What struck me early in that match is how big of a personality is Nick Kyrgios, especially compared to Dominic. But that’s Dominic, right? But that’s still a concern. Does he have that instinct to step on a guy’s throat and end the contest? Kyrgios commanded the direction of that match. He was clearly in charge, I thought. Domi seems so small, almost inconsequential (these are just candid thought as the Austrian continued to fall in that hole early in that Kyrgios match).

Losing to Dimitrov in straights like that, losing in the manner he did, playing unconvincing championship tennis, getting pushed around by Dimitrov, says something is not-quite-right.

Here’s my take before I move-on to some other players, matches, etc. I don’t think these concerns are very important, by the way. Who cares what I think about Dominic Thiem’s tennis or career.

None the less, my concern about him has always been that killer instinct, evidenced for me in his results in huge matches (at majors, against Nadal and Djoker, naturally) and in his court positioning.

The deep ROS position may work on clay, but not while Rafa is playing.

Thiem seems like one of the nicest guys on tour. He cares about the natural world, wildlife and makes this a big part of his life, from what I can gather. He sells me on his OHBH, his ability to pound his opponents with ground strokes and his success against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Look it up — he’s beaten them all several times (even a final vs Federer at IW. Of course, Federer actually has some of that same soft-pedaling that will struggle to close the deal these days against some of the tour’s nasty neighbors). Indeed, he’s been successful against these guys, but doesn’t have a lot of hardware to show for it (lost to Nadal a few times at RG, USO and Djoker at AO). Those matches against those kinds of personalities require more personal TNT. I don’t think Thiem has that.

His loss to Medvedev in the WTF Final saw this passivity.

On the flipside, Medvedev, not as talented as Thiem, might just end-up with more hardware because of his fortitude. Again, Thiem has a great mental health to get through these huge matches, but this sport, at the highest level, ends-up in the discussion of majors, maybe ATP Finals, then Masters.

Thiem might just be a one or two major guy. Maybe he gets to 3 or 4, flirting with a Wawrinka-like career. We know, by the way, that Stan was a monster. Look who he beat to obtain his three majors (Nadal and Djokovic x 2). But I just don’t see Thiem with that kind of hunger, necessarily. I want to be wrong. But the court position and the sometimes low energy, befuddled composure is a little cause for concern.

You kinda have to be an asshole to be successful in something like competitive sport. You can be a sweetheart off the court, but on the court/field/pitch/etc., you need, often, to want to see blood.

How about Medvedev’s 6-0 fifth set close-out against one of the junior Serb’s in R32. That’s telling. That’s fuck you.

Sorry to go on and on about Thiem. Obviously I like his tennis and don’t like his tennis. Ha ha. 😀

Why are we looking forward to Nadal vs Fognini later tonight? Because Foghat, so long as he comes to play and doesn’t shit the bed emotionally, against one of the more focused and blood-thirsty competitors ever, can beat Nadal, has enough fuck-you, chip-on-the-shoulder game to get it done. The Italian has even beaten Nadal in five, at the U.S. Open back in 2015, coming back from 0-2. Finally a Nadal match with a worthy competitor, who could, as we said and as we know, shit the bed and lose in a short trip to the bakery. Nadal likely wins, fairly easy, but you just don’t quite know with this cat, Foghat.

I’m looking forward to the McDonald vs Medvedev, as well. The American can flat-out play. He’s won the NCAA’s at UCLA and has some decent results on tour. This R16 run here in Melbourne is a very welcome sight and Medvedev is not a great Bo5 practitioner.

Looking ahead to the QFs already set:
Zverev vs Djokovic should be very interesting. The German has figured-out the Bo5, perhaps, has had some big results/runs and simply has a game that can beat anyone. If he can put three sets together with his serve, keep the FH on the tracks (his BH is pretty steady and can be very difficult to deal with) and come to net with some success, good luck. But he seems to have some of that difficulty concentrating, staying ascendant and so forth.

If Djokovic is not hurt, has good form, he should win.

The Russian secret weapon, Karatsev vs Dimitrov looks like a toss-up though you should give the nod to the Bulgarian. From what I’ve seen of the Russian, he hits the ball very well from both wings and can serve. Down two sets to FAA and he runs away with it? Says a lot about the Canadian, too. Yikes.

I’m going to stay up tonight or Stefanos vs. Matteo. Both good players, Stefanos flirting with great.

Is this our truly business-end of the tournament final eight (taking all favorites for that second set of QFs)?
Djokovic vs Zverev
Karatsev vs Dimitrov

Rublev vs Medvedev
Nadal vs Tsitsipas

Interestingly, an Italian or two might have something to say about this prediction.

Enjoy the tennis.

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