Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dominic Thiem in Vienna six years ago – when they meet again at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday, their relative positions in the rankings will have been reversed but will the result be the same?
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Top seed Dominic Thiem may struggle to get off to a winning start at the Erste Bank Open as he takes on former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round in Vienna on Tuesday.
Thiem has had little success at the biggest men’s tournament Austria has to offer. He has been playing at the Erste Bank Open since he was a teenager, making his debut in 2010 and losing in the first round of qualifying, and in eight appearances his best result has been making the quarterfinals twice, in 2013 (losing to none other than Tsonga) and 2018 (losing to Kei Nishikori).
There are reasons to believe that Thiem might well achieve a better result in 2019, however. His ability to win big matches on hard courts has definitely improved in 2019, as we saw when he claimed his maiden Masters 1000 Series title not in Monte Carlo or Rome but on the hard courts of Indian Wells, beating Roger Federer in the final; and he claimed a second hard-court title against quality opposition at the China Open in Beijing, beating Andy Murray, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas on his way to the 500-level title just a few weeks ago, securing his place at the Nitto ATP Finals in the process.
Moreover, Thiem also managed to secure the Kitzbuhel title on clay this summer, which suggested that perhaps he is starting to deal better with the pressure of playing at home (he was on a three-match losing streak in Kitzbuhel coming into this year’s tournament). And his Beijing run certainly suggests that he has more energy in reserve for this late part of the season than was typically the case in 2014-17; no doubt a first-round exit from the US Open at the hands of Thomas Fabbiano and a lighter-than-usual summer hard-court schedule thanks to illness have helped with that.
Under the circumstances, then, there would clearly be grounds for optimism, were it not for the draw which has landed Thiem with probably the toughest first-round opponent the top seed could have drawn in the form of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Tsonga’s record in Vienna, unlike Thiem’s, is excellent. Champion in 2011 when he defeated Juan Martin del Potro, Tsonga made the semifinals in 2013 and made back-to-back finals in 2016-17, losing to Andy Murray and Lucas Pouille respectively, compiling a 15-15 record at the tournament in six appearances.
Tsonga is also an excellent indoor hard-court player more generally, and is looking for his third title on European indoor hard courts of 2019 after triumphing in Montpelier in February (d. Pierre-Hugues Herbert) and Metz last month (d. Aljaz Bedene). He also won a Challenger event in Cassis on indoor hard courts.
Ranked world no. 239 at the start of 2019 after having only played 12 matches in 2018, Tsonga is already back inside the top 40 after compiling a 40-19 win-loss record so far this season. He hasn’t been too proud to play the occasional Challenger, but also made ATP Tour semifinals in Brisbane and Marrakech in addition to winning the titles mentioned abiove.
Tsonga has struggled at the bigger events often, and against the world’s best, losing the first four matches he played this year against top-10 players – but breaking that streak when he beat Karen Khachanov in three sets in Washington, D.C. this summer. Were he to beat Thiem, it would be his first victory over a top-five player since he beat Alexander Zverev at this very tournament two years ago.
Add in the fact that Thiem has an 0-2 record against Tsonga, and it looks bleak for the Austrian. But it’s very much worth noting that those matches came some time ago – in Vienna all the way back in 2013, when Tsonga was inside the top 10 and Thiem outside the top 100, and Indian Wells in 2016. Tsonga has undergone serious setbacks since then, while Thiem has raced to very nearly the top of the game. Still, this tournament has been a very fruitful one for Tsonga over the years and he may well hand Thiem another early Vienna defeat on Tuesday.
Thiem vs Tsonga Erste Bank Vienna Open tennis is live from Vienna on Tuesday at 5.30pm local/4.30pm BST
Thiem vs Tsonga tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Home hope Thiem could suffer early exit from Vienna at Tsonga’s hands
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Dominic Thiem in Vienna six years ago – when they meet again at the Erste Bank Open…
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