Tennis: Austrian triumphs as storm hits Paris

Austria's Dominic Thiem in action yesterday against Alexander Zverev of Germany. Thiem won their third-round match 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Shortly after, rain brought all other matches to a halt.
Austria's Dominic Thiem in action yesterday against Alexander Zverev of Germany. Thiem won their third-round match 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Shortly after, rain brought all other matches to a halt.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Thiem beats Zverev in four sets to move into last 16 as weather disrupts tournament again

PARIS • Dominic Thiem confirmed his status as an outsider to win the French Open tennis title yesterday with a 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 third round win over German teenager Alexander Zverev as torrential rain brought the afternoon's play to a halt at Roland Garros .

In what was a clash of two of the sport's rising new stars, the Austrian dropped a tight first set, but then coasted away from his 19-year-old opponent.

He will next play Spain's Marcel Granollers, who reached the last 16 without hitting a ball after nine-time champion Rafael Nadal withdrew on Friday due to a wrist injury.

If he wins that, it will be the first time that 22-year-old Thiem has reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.

"It's been the third match in the last four weeks between us and it was really tough, but I knew that from the start already," he said. "It was my first match on one of the big stadiums (at Roland Garros) and it was packed. An unbelievable experience."

Thiem went into the match having won the most matches (22) on clay so far this season, including two titles at Buenos Aires and Nice, hoisting him to a career-best 13th in the world rankings in March.

He struggled early on to cope with the baseline power-hitting of Zverev, 19, but his claycourt skills started to unsettle the towering German.

Thiem failed to convert three set points in the 12th game, however, setting up a tie-breaker that Zverev won after taking the first four points.

That setback only served to fire up the Austrian, a former junior world No. 2, as he started to put more power into his groundstrokes.

He took the second set 6-3 and then broke Zverev in the third game of the second to take control.

Zverev, bidding to become the youngest player to reach the last 16 at Roland Garros in 10 years, tried to attack the net in the fourth set but Thiem was too solid from the baseline, grabbing the break he needed in the fourth game.

Thiem has struggled to make his mark in the biggest tournaments, but he feels that much has changed over the last year to improve his game.

"There are many things," he said of his own progression. "I think the biggest part is the physical part. I think also physically now I belong to the top, which was not like this the last years."

Defending women's champion Serena Williams was locked in a second-set dogfight with France's Kristina Mladenovic when a spell of thunder, lightning and heavy rain led to play being suspended at 2.55pm local time.

Williams had taken the first set 6-4 and the score was level at 6-6 in the second when play was halted. The Ametrican eventually won 6-4, 7-6 (12-10).

Earlier, Ana Ivanovic's hopes of adding to her 2008 French Open success ended when she was beaten by Ukrainian 18th seed Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.

A year ago, it seemed as if Ivanovic was emerging from a prolonged slump after making it to the Paris semi-finals for the first time since her title run.

However, the Serbian 14th seed's form has nosedived over the past year and she has since failed to progress past the third round of the subsequent four Grand Slams.

The 28-year-old recovered from 4-1 down in the second set to level at 4-4 but the brief fightback only delayed the inevitable.

A forehand slapped into the net finally ended her ordeal and she pulled her white sun visor over her eyes as she made a quick exit from Court One .

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'Austrian triumphs as storm hits Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe