Thiem latest young pretender nipped in the bud

LONDON • The exodus of men's seeds, after No. 6 Alexander Zverev and No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday, continued yesterday - with No. 5 Dominic Thiem falling in the first round for the third time in six Wimbledon visits.

The Austrian, 25, reached the French Open final for the second straight year, but his heavy topspin game is less effective on grass and Sam Querrey took full advantage, winning 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, 6-0.

"I know grass is not his favourite surface, but he is still a great player. So I felt like the pressure was on him," said the American. "It meant I could swing freely."

Roger Federer, the eight-time winner and second seed, dropped the first set, but lost just five more games to ease past Lloyd Harris of South Africa 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Young gun Tsitsipas, 20, was tipped as the man most likely to challenge the authority of Novak Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal, the Big Three who have shared the last 10 Grand Slam titles.

But he was humbled 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (8-10), 6-3 by an inspired 89th-ranked Thomas Fabbiano, despite saving two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker on Court 2.

He knew it was not going to be his day when the relentless Italian broke him in the seventh game of the decider with a cruel net cord.

"I wouldn't actually deserve it even if I had won, because I didn't play well," said the Greek, who reached the Australian Open semi-final after beating Federer.

He also did not rule out his French Open five-set last-16 loss to the Swiss Stan Wawrinka last month still lingering in his psyche.

He said: "I was really disappointed, I'm disappointed now. People expected things from me, I didn't deliver.

"When you get so much support, so much energy, so much positivity from everyone, then just ruin everything by yourself, it's devastating."

He had company through the exit door in Zverev, who ran into Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely and was sent packing, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.

Though ranked 124th, Vesely has a strong pedigree at Wimbledon, having upset five seeds in the last five years before scalping Zverev.

The German world No. 5, coached by tennis great Ivan Lendl, slipped when serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the fourth set - giving away two match points and netting a backhand volley that sealed his fate.

He said: "I started off well, then one or two things don't go my way, and everything kind of fell apart."

His Slam performances have often underpaced his stellar achievements on Tour; the winner of the ATP Finals season-ender has yet to get past the Slam quarter-finals (French Open in 2017 and 2018).

He called his loss "kind of a typical Grand Slam match for me", while revealing that his "confidence is below zero right now".

He has been distracted by a legal battle with his former manager Patricio Apey this year.

It "hurts me", he said while in tears, adding: "He was a man who was very close to me. I thought we were close, not only because of the job. I thought we were friends. But now he's doing things I can't understand."

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2019, with the headline 'Thiem latest young pretender nipped in the bud'. Print Edition | Subscribe