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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, October 2, 2020

Major fatigue stalked Dominic Thiem like a shadow as he stepped onto Court Philippe Chatrier for the first match between seeded men in this Roland Garros.

Surely, sooner or later the emotional high of winning his maiden major at the US Open last month would ebb and his energy level recede, right?

More: Breaking Down First Two Rounds

As we saw today, Thiem doesn’t tire of thrashing challenges.

Today, he rolled right over one.

Down an early break, Thiem downshifted into Dominator mode dismantling Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 roaring into the Roland Garros round of 16 for the fifth straight year.

Thiem denied seven of eight break points, moved fluidly and struck with authority scoring his 10th straight win that he called one of his best performances of the season.

"I think that he was playing well from beginning to the end basically," Thiem said. "I really raised my level. Maybe the first four games were not as good as the rest of the match by me, but he's a really good player, especially on clay, probably one of the best of the season. I guess if we give him one more year, then he's going to be super dangerous.

"Here in Roland Garros I think that also the wet, slow conditions suited me a little bit more than him. But in general I was super happy with my performance. I think was one of the best ones this year."

It was Thiem’s 70th Grand Slam triumph as he continues his quest to become the first player to win the US Open and Roland Garros back-to-back.

Three up, three down.

Now Thiem awaits a potential blockbuster clash vs. Stan Wawrinka on Sunday—should the 2015 Roland Garros champion defeat French wild card Hugo Gaston. The pair split the opening two sets.

When the draw was issued, Thiem’s trip to a third consecutive Roland Garros final looked as arduous as scaling the Eiffel Tower on a unicycle.

Yet, a tuned-up Thiem has not dropped a set beating a pair of former Top 10 opponents—Marin Cilic and Jack Sock—before overpowering Rome runner-up Ruud, who took the court with a Tour-best 17 clay-court wins on the season.

"Basically I feel fine," Thiem said. "Of course I start to feel all the last weeks physically, also emotionally. I really love this tournament, and I would love to go deep to play well. I do everything to get a good recovery.

"Today I had an early match. That is good, so I think I'm going to have more than 48 hours to rest. So try to put easy but good practice in tomorrow and two good treatments with my physio. Good food, good sleep. Then put everything I have into the match on Sunday."

The 28th-seeded Ruud, who was coming off a five-set win over American Tommy Paul, used his diagonal forehand to break for 3-1.

The Buenos Aires champion opened with a burst, but Thiem brought the beat down.

The depth, pace and spin of Thiem’s heavy drives—combined with the mileage from his clay work-load—took it out of Ruud. Thiem broke right back at 15 sparking a streak that saw him win eight of nine points played on the Norwegian’s served to go up 4-3.

Navigating two tight holds, Thiem built a one-set lead with a slick backhand flick down the line.

"Like I think Rafa said it... that he was pretty sure that Thiem will win at least one time here in Roland Garros," Ruud said. "So I think it's looking very bright for him for his future here on the clay court.

"And even he won his first Grand Slam on hard court so he has a huge career in front of him, so he's a player that I will have to hopefully play a lot of matches against in my future as well."

Opening the court with confounding angles and often obliterating points with the dagger drive down the line, Thiem slashed through the break to start the opening set and backed up the break at 30. The Austrian’s fourth break sealed a two-set lead.

A confounding kick serve, set up Thiem’s heavy first strike: He held at love in three of his last five service games slamming shut an impressive two hour, 15-minute victory.

Thiem opened the year advancing to his first Australian Open final where he held a two-sets to one lead over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic before bowing in five sets.

Today, Thiem played with the determined drive of a man with plenty of competitive tread on his tires.

The road to Thiem's third straight Grand Slam final in this wild and crazy 2020 season will only get tougher, but Thiem is already revving up for the challenges ahead.

Photo credit: @RolandGarros


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