Thiem breaks down Goffin’s Wall to seal second UTS win

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Dominic Thiem recorded the second win of his Ultimate Tennis Showdown tournament, beating good friend David Goffin 15-10, 16-10, 13-10, 14-16.

Goffin surprisingly held a 7-5 head-to-head advantage over his opponent coming into the match and had actually never lost on a hard court.

But in this very different format of high intensity speed tennis, this was indeed a very difficult match to call, where speed of play and thought, added to the important the use of ‘UTS Cards’, makes tactics vital.

Both players came into the match with an even win/loss record, but Thiem came into the tournament late having played Novak Djokovic’s ill-fated Adria Tour event and playing two fewer matches.

There was little to choose between the good friends and regular hitting partners at the start, Goffin pulling to within a point when Thiem missed a makeable overhead that would have given him a Winners x3.

Dominic Thiem, UTS 2020

It mattered not, the use of a -1 Serve forcing a fault from the Belgian before coach Thomas Johansson called for a coaching time out. The Wall still had one card up his sleeve in Winners x3, but with only one point resulting, Thiem was able to play out the clock and take the quarter 15-10.

“It was a very good quarter for me, for sure, and I think I made a smart decision taking the cards. I’m getting better and better every match, I’m happy and hope it continues like that,” said Thiem after the opener. “I think it’s almost the same if you steal the serve or take the -1 serve. If the opponent has pressure, the chances are his misses that one serve.”

The Wall has not earned that nickname for nothing, however, and Thiem still had much work to do to break down the Belgian defences. Some classic rallies ensued, and heading into the final three minutes, there still four cards to play.

Thiem plays cards right when it matters to pull clear

And it was Domi who played them the better, a x3 ace giving The Austrian breathing space enough to see out a high-quality quarter 16-10.

“It was really close in the beginning  but then there were those two super long rallies where I got lucky with a super high lob and those two points were the key points in that quarter, for sure,” said Thiem.

As with the previous match, even a 2-0 lead does not ensure victory, and there was still plenty of work to do, especially against an opponent as obdurate as Goffin. Locked at 4-4 it was time for Thomas Johansson to call a coaching time out, the advice coming for The Wall to be more decisive with his serve, be aggressive and hold his position and not rush his favourite backhand up the line.

Again, the players left it late in the quarter to play their cards, Goffin nipping in just before his opponent with a Winners x3 but losing both points in pressing too hard – another interesting scenario in this format of tennis.

But it was Thiem again who played his cards right at the right time with the clock running down, claiming his first victory on hard courts, albeit in a very different format, against his good friend.

“It was tactically really smart of him (to take the time out) because tactically I had to decide whether to use the card or not and what to do on the next point so it was a super good decision by him. I had a really great feeling and it was a really great three quarters now, especially the last one at the end to keep the points long as the time was running out.”

In this new format, where quarters won can make the difference in the final count-up to see who progresses into the knockout phases, there was still important tennis to be played. And it was Goffin who lived up to his never say die reputation by taking a tight fourth that could yet be crucial.

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