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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, September 7, 2020

 
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Dominic Thiem thrashed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 storming into his seventh career major quarterfinal at the US Open.

Photo credit: Pete Staples/USTA

Electric energy New York City fans provide is missing at this Coronavirus US Open.

Dominic Thiem plugged into his major passion charging closer to his second Grand Slam of the season.

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On Labor Day, Thiem was in no mood for working overtime. Thiem thrashed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 rolling into his second US Open quarterfinal in the last three years.

The two-time French Open finalist belted a clean backhand winner down the line roaring into his seventh career Grand Slam quarterfinal playing what he called his best tennis of this American trip over the final two sets.




“The first set was very important for sure,” Thiem told ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs afterward. “I was really nervous before the match I have to say. I knew I was going to play against an amazing opponent.

“I had a chance to serve for the first set missed it pretty poorly. The tiebreak was really good I started to miss less and less. Set two and three were 100 percent the best sets so far in this trip for me. I’m really happy with this one because I just beat an amazing opponent upcoming superstar. I hope I take everything with me from this match and take it to the next round.”

The second-seeded Thiem punished Auger-Aliassime’s shaky forehand wing drawing 51 unforced errors from the Miami Open semifinalist turning a tight opening set into a rapid rout.

This wild and crazy US Open marks the first time since 2003 Wimbledon when Roger Federer beat Mark Philippoussis that none of the quarterfinalists have won a Grand Slam title.

The highest-seeded man still standing in the draw after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s stunning disqualification yesterday, Thiem, who trails Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev as the bookmakers third favorite to take the title, said he feels no added pressure as the most experienced player still standing in the draw.

“I really focus only on myself,” Thiem said. “I’m trying to look from match to match. At the end, for myself and the other remaining players left in the draws, it doesn’t matter if the Big 3 are still here or not. I think everyone wants their hands on this trophy and it doesn’t matter who they gonna beat.

“So I just focus on the tournament for me. For myself, it doesn’t matter if the big three are here or not.”

This was a big opportunity for Auger-Aliassime, who was empowered by successive straight-sets wins, including dismantling former world No. 1 Andy Murray in round two. Ultimately, Auger-Aliassime just couldn’t answer the ball and match the Austrian’s consistency or positive energy.

The 20-year-old Canadian was nearly untouchable on serve winning 48 of 49 service games through the first three rounds.

It was a completely different story today as Auger-Aliassime was shanking some forehands early on and often left banging his palm against the strings of his Babolat racquet as if dissatisfied with the tension.

While Thiem’s return game on hard courts is still a work in progress, he forced Auger-Aliassime to work hard in early service games. When the Canadian scattered a forehand long, Thiem grabbed the opening break in the fifth game.

Targeting his opponent’s unruly forehand wing, Thiem backed up the break at love for 4-2.

Serving for the set at 5-4, the Austrian threw in his sloppiest game of the set, including a double fault, netted backhand and a floated forehand to gift back the break. Auger-Aliassime didn’t need to do much in leveling after 10 games.

Thiem, who teetered when serving for the first set, played a poised tiebreaker. Lashing his one-hander down the line, the Austrian went up 3-1. Thiem torched a forehand winner for 5-2 and closed the 65-minute opener correctly challenging the Canadian’s drive that floated long.




It snapped Auger-Aliassime’s eight-set winning streak and had him playing catch-up though he never fully recovered.

The Australian Open finalist opened up his shoulders smacking a tremendous backhand return pass. The 15th seed then proceeded to break himself committing his first double fault of the day and scattering another forehand—his 30th unforced error—gifting Thiem the break and a 2-0 second-set advantage.

Creating sharp angles from his crackling topspin strokes, Thiem tore through 12 of the last 15 points taking a two-set lead after one hour, 41 minutes.

Wisely hitting to big targets giving his erratic opponent plenty of time and space to implode, Thiem broke for again for a 4-1 third-set lead when Auger-Aliassime, hitting off his backfoot, flagged a forehand into net.

The Austrian could clearly see the finish line and Thiem streaked through it winning 12 of the last 13 points to wrap a powerful two hour, seven-minute performance.

Alex de Minaur awaits Thiem in the quarterfinals. The 21-year-old Australian toppled Vasek Pospisil 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to his first career Grand Slam quarterfinal.

The Thiem vs. de Minaur quarterfinal clash pits the Austrian's explosive power and hellacious kick serve against the Aussie's counterpunching consistency and exceptional quickness.

"Dominic Thiem, actually [has] immense firepower," de Minaur said. "So it's just going to be a match where I'm just going to have to try to stand my ground again, do what I do best, stay solid, and look for any kind of opportunity I can to dictate.

"Look, just happy to be in the next round."

Thiem, who held a lead over Djokovic in the Australian Open final before bowing in five sets, is committed to continuing his trek toward a first major championship.

"I’m probably one of the oldest players left in the field, which is surreal to me," Thiem said. "And I know Alex. We played in 2017. He made unbelievable development the same with him like with Felix, [he's] absolutely a superstar up-and-coming. I'll try to play up my experience and prepare well and take all the positive things from this match and hopefully continue."

 

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