Dominic Thiem will be looking to become the first Austrian to win the Erste Bank Open title since 2010 when he faces Diego Schwartzman in the final on Sunday in Vienna.
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Top seed Dominic Thiem aims for his first Erste Bank Open title in Vienna when he squares off against London outsider Diego Schwartzman in the final on Sunday.
Thiem has found himself in some big battles this week in advancing to his first Vienna final in 10 appearances. The home hope began his campaign with a tight straight sets win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening round before coming from a set down to beat Fernando Verdasco in three, which was his first win in five attempts over the Spanish veteran. Thiem would go on to benefit from a retirement by Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarter-finals, but he was forced to dig deep in his semi-final showdown with U.S. Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, recovering from dropping the opening set and some tense moments at 5-5 in the second as he emerged triumphant by a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 scoreline, sending the Vienna crowd into wild celebrations.
“I never experienced such a great atmosphere here,” said Thiem, who is the first Austrian to make the Vienna final since Jurgen Melzer beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in 2010.
“It was full from the first point on. Such a loud atmosphere as well. It was perfect to play in and the match was on a very high level from the first to the last point… With all the support and home advantage, I was able to pull through.”
Thiem is gunning for his second title on home soil this season after winning the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel a few months ago, with the Austrian improving to 8-0 in his home country with his current run in Vienna. Thiem battled illness and injury after winning in Kitzbuhel, withdrawing from Cincinnati, losing in the opening round of the U.S. Open and going down to World No. 163 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in Davis Cup. However, the 26-year-old bounced back strongly during the Asian swing, winning his fourth title of the season in Beijing and making the quarter-finals in Shanghai.
Overall, it’s been yet another high-quality season for Thiem, who has registered a 44-16 record, winning his maiden Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells, capturing two more clay-court title in Barcelona and Kitzbuhel and finishing runner-up at the French Open for the second year in a row to Rafael Nadal. Traditionally, Thiem has struggled with fatigue and burnout at this stage of the season, but he’s in very good form at the moment, winning 11 of his last 12 matches. Can he secure his first Vienna crown on Sunday?
Diego Schwartzman will have other ideas. The Argentine has advanced into his third ATP final indoors after finishing runner-up in Antwerp in 2016 and 2017, dropping just one set this week with victories over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Sam Querrey, second seed Karen Khachanov and fourth seed Gael Monfils. Schwartzman saved all four break points he faced against Monfils in Saturday’s semi-final, defeating his fellow London contender by a 6-3 6-2 scoreline in 74 minutes, while the win also doubled as Schwartzman’s 39th of 2019, which equals his personal best that he set in 2017.
“I am very, very happy,” said Schwartzman. “It was not the best few weeks before here, with China and Antwerp. Now I am feeling really good again on court. [I am] feeling solid, patient, aggressive and focussed.
“[I am] trying to do everything good. It is really nice for me to get the confidence again. Having this kind of tournament at the end of the year is really nice.”
Schwartzman is still in with an outside chance of snatching one of the final two spots for the ATP Finals in London, with his run to the Vienna final lifting him to 14th in the Race, with the Argentine set to rise to No. 12 if he can win the title.
After cracking the top 50 for the first time in 2017 as he made his first Masters 1000 and Grand Slam quarter-finals in Canada and the U.S. Open, Schwartzman has been a mainstay in the 15-30 bracket in the rankings, peaking at a career-high of No. 11 last year after winning the 500-level Rio Open and reaching the French Open quarter-finals. Schwartzman dropped to No. 26 earlier this season, but he’s back moving in the right direction again after winning his third career title in Los Cabos and if he can win the Vienna title, he would move up to No. 12.
Thiem leads their head-to-head 4-2, but Schwartzman has won two of their last three meetings and their last clash on hardcourt two years ago in Canada. The Argentine certainly has a better chance against Thiem on hardcourt, but it’s hard to go past the Austrian in front of his home crowd. Schwartzman’s superb movement and return of serve should see him push Thiem all the way, but I think when push comes to shove in this final, the top seed will find something extra to get him over the line.