Dominic Thiem has already put together his best ever showing at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna- can the home favourite advance to his first final of the ATP 500 tournament by taking down Italian, Matteo Berrettini on Saturday?
(geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Thiem will be seeking revenge over Berrettini, as the Italian had eliminated the Austrian in the quarter finals of the Shanghai Masters a couple of weeks ago.
Earlier in his career, Thiem notoriously struggled on the hard court stretch towards the end of the year, but the Austrian did OK last season, reaching the quarter finals in Vienna, and the semi-finals in Paris, and he has continued that improvement this year, winning Beijing, his first title in Asia, making the last eight in Shanghai, and now the semi-finals in Vienna for the first time in his career.
He had also traditionally struggled at his home event in Vienna, making just the two quarter finals in his previous seven visits, but he has produced his best run this year, coming through a tough draw to take his place in the last four. The world No. 5 took down former champion, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4 7-6 in the first round, before battling from a set down to defeat Fernando Verdasco in the second- his first victory in five attempts over the Spanish left hander.
Thiem and the Vienna crowd might have feared the worst when the top seed dropped the opening set against nemesis Verdasco, but the 26-year-old launched a magnificent response, putting on a serving clinic to power to a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory. Incredibly, he dropped just one point on serve in the second and third sets of that contest, rounding up a hugely impressive fightback after an hour and 48 minutes. He did not have to do much in the quarter finals, as Pablo Carreno Busta retired hurt after dropping the first five games.
The Austrian is looking to reach his sixth final of the season, having won titles at Indian Wells- his first at Masters 1000 level- Barcelona, Kitzbuhel and Beijing; and finished runner-up at Roland Garros (lost to Rafael Nadal).
Standing in the way of the home favourite is Matteo Berrettini, who has made the semi-finals in his first appearance in Vienna.
While Thiem has safely booked his spot at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, Berrettini is attempting to join him in London, and the Italian has so far done a terrific job in that quest in Vienna. The US Open semi-finalist got off to a shaky start as he dropped his opening set of the tournament to Kyle Edmund, but he has won six straight sets since then, fighting back to beat Edmund, taking down Grigor Dimitrov in two tie breaks, and outlasting the in-form Andrey Rublev 7-5 7-6 in Friday’s quarter finals.
“I am really happy. It was a tough match, mentally and physically,” said Berrettini after his victory over Rublev. “Andrey is playing his best tennis so far. Last week, he won Moscow, so he was feeling confident and I saw it on the court.”
The 23-year-old, who currently sits in the eighth and final spot in the Race to London, started the day with a 40-point lead over ninth-placed Roberto Bautista-Agut in the standings, but he has extended that lead to 130 points, after Bautista-Agut fell to Reilly Opelka in the Basel quarter finals.
There was very little to choose between Berrettini and Rublev in their Vienna quarter final, but the Italian was the more solid player towards the back end of both sets, stealing a late break in the opening set, and holding his nerve to take the second set tie break and advance to his eighth semi-final of the season. The most memorable of those semi-finals was of course at the US Open, where he defeated Gael Monfils in an epic five-setter to each his maiden major semi-final.
He has picked up titles in Budapest and Stuttgart, made a final in Munich, and contested semi-finals in Sofia, Halle, New York and Shanghai in a fantastic 2019. For his efforts, he will break into the top ten for the first time when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Before then, he has got his sights set on another final as he takes on Thiem in Vienna on Saturday.
The head-to-head is level at 1-1, with Thiem winning at Roland Garros in 2018, and Berrettini hitting back with that victory in Shanghai. I think Thiem has been playing the better tennis this week, while Berrettini has been doing just enough to win. The Italian may be required to do a bit more on Saturday. The serve will again play an important role, with Berrettini holding the advantage in that department, but if Thiem can reproduce the quality he showed in the second and third sets against Verdasco, he will be difficult to stop.
Dominic Thiem vs Matteo Berrettini is live from Vienna on Saturday, 26 October from 2:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST