Madrid Open – Thiem Saves Match Points to Topple Federer, Nadal Dominates Wawrinka, Halep and Bertens Advance to Final
(May 10, 2019) A day after saving a pair of match points to move into the quarterfinals, Roger Federer failed to convert on two match points and loses at the Madrid Open on Friday to Dominic Thiem 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4.
The Swiss, making his first appearance on a clay court in three years still felt good about his three matches on clay this week.
“I feel very good about my game,” he said. “I thought I had some good matches here, you know, especially last two. First one was good to get into it.
“And obviously, Gael (Monfils) and Dominic are tough on the clay so it was a good battle. I feel good on the clay right now.”
“It’s been a good week,” Federer added. “Frustrating, clearly. Losing with match points is the worst, so that’s how I feel. But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it’s all good.”
The fifth seed Thiem now holds a 4-2 record against Federer. He beat Federer earlier this year in the Indian Wells final.
“Facing him, it always requires my absolute best game and also a little bit luck, which I both had in Indian Wells and also here, and that’s why I won these two matches,” Thiem said to media.
Thiem will play No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic for place in the final. Djokovic advanced when his opponent, Marin Cilic withdrew from the tournament with food poisoning.
“The test today was huge and tomorrow is a different game, of course.” Thiem admitted.
“But I was playing Novak last year and two years ago and he was not at his best I guess, and now he is again. He’s won the last three Slams and he is at the top of the ranking again. So the challenge couldn’t be bigger.
“And it’s, of course, a very tough tournament because I only faced so good players and tomorrow is another one. So I’ll try to keep up my good momentum which I have now and give my best again.”
In the night session, five-time champion Rafael Nadal put on a clinic, destroying Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2 to reach the semisfinals.
“Wawrinka has won three matches pretty well,” said the second seed Nadal. “He’s been playing really well on clay in the last few weeks and he also beat Nishikori which is also a very tough player. So he was playing really good. I was expecting a tough match today.
“I knew that I had to play a little better and fortunately it is has been a good day for me. I have been lucky. It was an important day for me that I think I have been able to work through to the next stage.
“I have done really good things today. Perhaps one of the days that everything worked out and I have done it really well.
“And from there onwards I have been able to generate opportunities. I think he’s been playing uncomfortable. He was trying to with his shot to find my backhand, but I was returning good on the backhand so maybe he didn’t find his place on the court and overall, I have been solid.
“And in defense, I felt that I have had a lot of power in my legs because I wanted to defend properly and my opponent needed better shots in the next shot to make, to harm me a bit more.
“And I have a bit more on confidence on the winning shot. That is the only thing that I can say today. Those winning shots, when you are normally in the middle, without thinking, you know the ball is going to go where you want it to go. And when I’m going up to the net, if I can say something, I was just doing those shots without thinking and maybe that is the next step, to do those shots without thinking, just make them.”
“It was one of my best matches in a long time, my best match on clay this year.”
“It means a lot to have this feeling in this crucial moment of the clay season.”
The Spaniard will face off against No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas for a spot in the final. The man from Greece knocked out No. 3 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
“He’s playing very good,” said the German to media during his news conference. “He’s obviously improved a lot. His serve is very, very good, I was surprised today.
“And the second shot he hits it unbelievably aggressive, so it was not easy. I mean, I actually thought I played really well the first two sets.
“I had a one bad game in two sets and that was at 5-All when he broke me and I kind of broke myself there. So, this was the only thing.
“Going into the third set, if I break earlier than 1-1, maybe it would be different. But, yeah, he won today and he’s in the semifinals and I got to go to Rome and prepare the best I can.”
“I mean, he’s not the favorite probably (against Nadal), but yeah, he’s playing well. I think if I would have won today, I would have been even better. Even maybe one more step towards really playing my best tennis. So tennis is really one or two points that decide a match.
“If I played a little more aggressive in that third set on breakpoints, maybe I go up a break and win the match as well. But everything happens for a reason.
“And I still got to improve. And as I said a few weeks ago, I think every week is going to be better for me and this week was better than the last week, the last week was better than the previous week, and next week I hope is going to be better than this week, so basically for the French Open I’ll be perfect,” Zverev said with a laugh.
In women’s action, Simona Halep has a chance to take back the top ranking back when she plays Kiki Bertens in the Women’s final on Saturday.
The No. 3 seed is back into the Madrid final after a two-year absence with a 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-0 victory over unseeded Belinda Bencic. Bertens, last year’s Madrid finalist, beat No. 8 seed Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-5 to advance.
Taking the title would put the Romanian back up the No. 1 spot on Monday.
“I prefer to win tomorrow than being No. 1 in the world at this moment because, as I said many times, this tournament is very special,” Halep said. “And I prefer titles than numbers and rankings. So this is my goal, to play finals and to win trophies, but it’s going to be very tough tomorrow.”
She will face last year’s runner-up Kiki Bertens, who defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-5.
“I think it was a tough day today,” said the Dutchwoman. “I think we both didn’t play well. I didn’t feel so well. The body was a little bit tired. I think yesterday was a really long night. So, I only went to sleep, like, really late. The body had to recover a little bit from that so I’m happy to get through here today and really happy to be in another final in Madrid.”
“It (the final) is going to be a really tough battle, I would say. We have had great battles in the past. She loves clay. She loves to play here as well. She won it already twice (smiling). I love it also here. So I think it is just going to be a great battle and yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”