Second seed Dominic Thiem edged German Alexander Zverev 36 63 64 in the blockbuster match of the Rotterdam first round, as the two stars of what many have predicted as the next generation of men's tennis clashed for the fourth time at tour-level.
WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER BURTON
Zverev had made a flying start to the match, as Thiem's one-handed backhand was producing too many early errors, and the German raced into a 4-0 lead. Zverev had won the Montpellier title last week, defeating the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, and looked set to continue that form in Rotterdam. Thiem retrieved one of the breaks, but Zverev closed out the set.
Zverev was also the first to put pressure on the Thiem serve in the second set, closing the net for a number of winners. Thiem had withdrawn his free-swinging backhand, instead opting for a more restrained slice, and though he produced fewer errors, it allowed Zverev to be more aggressive. Thiem saved a break point at two-all, before striking himself a game later. A sumptuous one-handed backhand gave him love-thirty, and he then passed Zverev at the net for break chances. He took one, and sealed the set with an easy hold to level the match.
Dominic Thiem (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Thiem now had all the momentum, and he broke first in the third set to lead in the match for the first time at three-two. This led to Zverev smashing his racket at the change of ends, earning a chorus of boos from the crowd and a code violation from the chair umpire for racket abuse.
He quickly put that behind him though, immediately breaking back by this time drawing errors from Thiem's forehand. Both men then held once more each, before Zverev again faltered. In an entertaining break point at four-all Thiem hit an aggressive return down the line that resulted in a point that showcased the full attacking talents of Thiem and the defensive grit and determination of Zverev, before Thiem took the break with short-angle volley.
Alexander Zverev (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Thiem then took the match with a easy service hold, to put his shock second round defeat to Nikoloz Basilashvili in Sofia a week ago firmly behind him.