In a surprisingly high quality first round match at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Dominic Thiem–who is the top seed and probably the main attraction this week in Doha following Novak Djokovic’s withdrawal–saw off Evgeny Donskoy in straight sets, winning 7-6 6-3 to start the new year in style.
A tightly contested opening set, which lasted exactly an hour, went into a tie break where the Austrian showed more composure and decisiveness on the key points. Thiem could have wrapped up the first set at 5-3 with a break of serve and a set point, but Donskoy was able to break back and stay on serve.
The World No.5 then had to fend off two break points on his serve at 5-5 before the ensuing tie break. In spite of having participated at the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi last week, Thiem showed no signs of fatigue or complacency. His form after the French Open deteriorated massively last year, and this was a concern he hopes he has addressed during the close off-season with his new coach Galo Blanco.
Thiem slowly and wrenchingly was able to assert his dominance in the second set. Despite posting a lowly 59% first-serve percentage, Thiem won 95% points on his first serve and fired more than 10 aces. He counter-punched Donskoy’s forehand with his fierce crosscourt backhand. In the end the difference in rankings told the story and Thiem was always a step ahead of his Russian opponent. Donksoy, who registered a giant-killing win over Roger Federer earlier last year in Dubai, could not consolidate another upset on a slow hard court which ultimately played right into Thiem’s game.
The Qatar ExxonMobil Open, spotting a changed blue court and having been voted as the best ATP 250 event in 2017, remains the only 250 level tournament that each of the famous “big four” have won. But with news that its current champion Djokovic still sidelined with an elbow injury, Thiem along with former top ten players Tomas Berdych and Fernando Verdasco, will headline the event.
The Austrian will face either Aljaz Bedene or Malik Jaziri in round two.
Embed from Getty Images