Can Dominic Thiem record an eighth consecutive victory when he takes on Nitto ATP Finals hopeful, Matteo Berrettini at the Shanghai Masters on Friday?
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Coming off a title winning run in Beijing, where he took out fellow top-ten players, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and former world No. 1, Andy Murray on his way to a fourth title of the season, Thiem has registered two fine wins this week, beating Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6 6-3 in the second round, and the dangerous Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3 6-4 to extend his winning streak to seven matches, and reach the Shanghai Masters quarter finals for the first time.
Despite dropping his serve twice against Basilashvili, Thiem was never behind in the third round contest, breaking twice in each set to score his first win over the Georgian. (He lost their only previous meeting in Sofia in 2017).
“Honestly, for me, it’s difficult to play against guys like him because I love to have the control over the game, love to be in offence myself. But against him, it’s almost impossible because he hits full power from the first shot on, serve or return,” Thiem assessed. “I had the feeling mostly in the match that I was in the defence. That’s not my strength, but I handled it well.”
The Austrian, who had traditionally struggled in the Asian swing, had crashed in the second round in all of his four previous visits to Shanghai, but he has broken that barrier this year, and will be seeking further progress on Friday.
Thiem is up to 40 wins for the season- the fourth consecutive year he’s hit that mark- and it is no major surprise that a good percentage of those wins were recorded on clay. Another fruitful clay-court season yielded titles in Barcelona and Kitzbuhel, while he made the final at Roland Garros for the second straight season (lost to Rafael Nadal). However, his biggest title of the season came away from clay, at Indian Wells, where he defeated Roger Federer in the final to claim his maiden Masters 1000 title.
Thiem secured his spot at the Nitto ATP Finals with his title run in China last week- and he could be joined in London by US Open semi-finalist, Matteo Berrettini, who’s well in the qualification picture.
Berrettini is currently ninth on the ATP Race, just one position outside the automatic qualification spots, and 70 points behind eight-placed Alexander Zverev.
Competing in Shanghai for the first time, Berrettini has made very impressive progress, moving through the first three rounds without dropping a set. The 23-year-old opened with a 6-2 6-1 dispatch of Jan-Lennard Struff, before ousting Cristian Garin 6-3 6-3 in the second round.
He faced his sternest resistance in the third round against fellow London hopeful, Roberto Bautista-Agut but the Italian scaled through 7-6 6-4. He got broken while serving for the first set, but he held his nerve in the tie break to take the lead, while he recovered from an early break in the second set to complete the win in just under two hours. Berrettini sent down 13 aces, winning 87% of points on his first serve.
That serve has been a major weapon in the rapid progress he’s made this year- winning titles in Budapest and Stuttgart, and reaching the final in Munich- but his most memorable achievement this season has got to be that US Open semi-final run, which launched him to a whole new level.
Qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals would be another stunning addition to an outstanding year, and he can take another step towards London by beating Dominic Thiem on Friday.
Thiem scored a four-set win over Berrettini in their only previous meeting at Roland Garros last year, but Berrettini is a lot more confident these days, and will arguably be more dangerous on the quicker hard courts in Shanghai.
Berrettini’s backhand remains dodgy, and Thiem will definitely look to direct as much traffic into that wing, but the Italian has looked in very good form this week, and if he has a good serving day, and finds his range on his fiery forehand, he’s got every chance of ending Thiem’s streak on Friday.
Dominic Thiem vs Matteo Berrettini is live from Shanghai on Friday, 11 October from 8:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST