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Rafa Keeps Cushion Against Novak In Battle For No. 1

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Rafa Keeps Cushion Against Novak In Battle For No. 1

Nadal to face Wawrinka for place in QF

The battle for year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings is officially on. Rafael Nadal, in his first tour-level match since 21 September, held off France’s Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday night at the Rolex Paris Masters to maintain his 1,280-point lead over Novak Djokovic in the ATP Race To London.

Djokovic beat Frenchman Corentin Moutet earlier Wednesday and is looking to pass Nadal in the Race and finish as the year-end No. 1 for the sixth time. But Nadal controls his destiny. If the Spaniard wins his first Rolex Paris Masters crown, he will end the year No. 1 for the fifth time.

Mannarino hung tough during the 59-minute opener, erasing Nadal’s first three set points as the Paris fans tried to will their man to the upset. Nadal is playing in Bercy for the first time since 2017 and only the seventh time overall, and he owns only one indoor hard-court title (2005 Madrid).

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But, despite Mannarino mixing up his first-serve location well, Nadal took the opener when the Frenchman netted a backhand. The Spaniard broke once more, just in time, in the 10th game of the second set when Mannarino made back-to-back unforced errors.

Nadal will next meet Swiss Stan Wawrinka, who edged Croatian Marin Cilic 7-6(3), 7-6(5) in just under two hours. It will be their 22nd FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (Nadal leads 18-3), and their first on indoor hard courts since the 2015 Nitto ATP Finals (Nadal won 6-3, 6-2).

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Paris Masters: Kyle Edmund to play Novak Djokovic after beating Diego Schwartzman

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Britain’s Kyle Edmund beat 14th seed Diego Schwartzman to set up a last-16 match against world number one Novak Djokovic at the Paris Masters.

Edmund, 24, has dropped from a career high of 14th in January to 75th in the world and had lost eight consecutive matches before this tournament.

But he followed up his win on Tuesday against Ricardas Berankis by beating Argentina’s Schwartzman 7-5 6-3.

Serb Djokovic beat French 20-year-old Corentin Moutet 7-6 (7-2) 6-4.

Djokovic, 32, a four-time champion here, won his first meeting with Moutet by taking the first set on a tie-break and then gaining an early break in the second.

“I didn’t play well at all but I somehow managed to win,” Djokovic told Amazon Prime. “He [Moutet] is an up-and-coming player, very quick. But I found a way to win and that’s what matters.”

Schwartzman, who reached the US Open quarter-finals in September, had his serve broken in the final game of the opening set, with a double fault handing the British number three the lead.

Edmund then performed well at the start of the second set and held a 4-1 advantage, before sealing his win over the world number 15.

“It was a really good performance,” Edmund said. “I was on another level from yesterday, another gear and had a lot more control.

“I just had something about me and as the match grew I got more and more confidence and I had a really good match.”

On Thursday’s match against Djokovic, Edmund added: “We’ve played four times, three-one to him, we know how we play and I’ve got nothing to lose.

“He is expected to win and of course he is a legend of the game, hopefully I can take it to him.”

Elsewhere, four seeded players were knocked out in round two on Wednesday.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov came from a set down to beat Italian 11th seed Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-3 6-3, while American 15th seed John Isner, who lost to Britain’s Andy Murray in the 2016 final, was eliminated, losing 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) to Cristian Garin of Chile.

Twelfth seed David Goffin of Belgium was beaten 7-5 6-3 by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Spanish ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut fell to a 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-1) loss to Australia’s Alex de Minaur.

Fifth seed Dominic Thiem of Austria beat Canada’s Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-5) 5-7 6-4 and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded seventh, overcame American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7-3) 6-3.

World number two Rafael Nadal is also in action later on Wednesday against against French wildcard Adrian Mannarino.

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Salisbury/Ram Prevail In Paris

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Salisbury/Ram Prevail In Paris

Herbert/Mahut advance on Wednesday

Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury continued their hot streak on Wednesday at the Rolex Paris Masters, moving into the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Robin Haase/Wesley Koolhof.

Ram/Salisbury, who took the title last week in Vienna (d. Kubot/Melo), have won nine of their past 11 matches. Earlier this week, they clinched their team debut at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, held at The O2 in London from 10-17 November.

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Seventh seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut powered past Hubert Hurkacz/Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals. The reigning Australian Open champions will take on fellow French duo Jeremy Chardy/Fabrice Martin or Divij Sharan/Artem Sitak in the next round. Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies also moved into the last eight by cruising through Marin Cilic/Pablo Cuevas 7-6(3), 6-1.

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Maximo Gonzalez and Austin Krajicek scored the shock of the day with a 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-8 first-round win over third seeds Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo. Second seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos avoided an opening-round upset by rallying to defeat Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau 3-6, 6-3, 10-4. Rohan Bopanna/Denis Shapovalov opened their week with a 6-4, 7-5 win against Benoit Paire/Fernando Verdasco.

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Djokovic Survives Moutet's Upset Bid In Paris

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Djokovic Survives Moutet’s Upset Bid In Paris

Serbian looking to finish the season strong in Paris and London

Novak Djokovic held off an upset bid on Wednesday at the Rolex Paris Masters to keep alive his hopes of finishing as the year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

Djokovic saved two set points in the opening set and broke #NextGenATP Frenchman Corentin Moutet as the 20-year-old served for the opener before returning to his usual form and advancing 7-6(2), 6-4.

“I didn’t feel health-wise 100 per cent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is. It’s not the first time I didn’t play at a really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set,” Djokovic said. “First time against a young player who is talented, very quick. Returns a lot of balls back that usually other guys wouldn’t get, he gets it. And he was pumped, and I respect his fighting spirit.

“It was a good match in the end, and I found a way to win, which in [these] circumstances… when you’re not feeling your best, is important.”

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Djokovic, serving at 3-5, erased both set points – 30/40, Ad-Out – despite a fervent French crowd pulling for Moutet. The next game, a nervy Moutet sprayed a forehand wide to give Djokovic the break to 15. The Serbian sprinted through the tie-break as Moutet grew frustrated.

Moutet gained one of two breaks back in the second set and forced Djokovic to serve it out at 5-4, but the Serbian did so with ease to reach the third round of the season’s final ATP Masters 1000 event. Djokovic was more aggressive than Moutet all match, hitting nearly three times as many balls inside than court than the Frenchman.

Djokovic Rally Hit Points


Moutet Rally Hit Points


“I’m disappointed. I enjoyed myself playing very much against Novak with the crowd [cheering] us,” Moutet said. “There are a few opportunities that I missed, but next time.”

He will next meet Briton Kyle Edmund, who beat 14th seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 7-5, 6-3. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1, with Edmund’s win coming on clay at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open.

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The Serbian needs to finish fewer than 1,500 ATP Race To London points behind Nadal to have a chance at ending the year in the top spot for the sixth time. He is currently 1,280 Race points behind Nadal, who controls his fate when it comes to year-end No. 1. Should the Spaniard win his first Masters 1000 Paris title, he will finish year-end No. 1 for the fifth time.

“I understand that I need to play better and feel better to have a chance to go far in this tournament and, as a result of that, to have a chance to still be in the battle for No. 1,” Djokovic said. “But, again, it doesn’t depend only on me. It depends on him. But my focus is on me.”

– Hawkeye data and visuals courtesy ATP Media

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Ace King: Isner Takes 2019 Title In Year-End Tally

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Ace King: Isner Takes 2019 Title In Year-End Tally

American completes the feat on Wednesday in Paris

John Isner served up another big season in 2019, retaining his title as the year-end ace leader on Wednesday at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Isner holds the top spot in the Infosys ATP Scores & Stats this year with 1,032 aces, marking the seventh time (2010, 2012-2013, 2016-19) he’s accomplished the feat. He’s finished on top of the annual ace tally for four consecutive years, breaking the record he shared with Goran Ivanisevic.

Isner’s Year-End Leading Ace Tally

 Year  Total Aces  Matches
2010  1,048  62
2012  1,005  60
2013  979  60
2016  1,159  50
2017  1,123  57
2018  1,213  54
2019  1,032  48

Fellow American Reilly Opelka led this year’s tally by seven aces going into Paris. But with Opelka wrapping up his season last week in Basel, Isner retained his title with 25 aces in his opening-round match in Paris against Chilean Cristian Garin.

Earlier this month at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, the 34-year-old reached 1,000 aces, a number which he’s hit on six different occasions and every year since 2015. Isner averaged 22 aces per match this season, up from 17 in 2010.

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He’s also still in contention to finish his career as the all-time ace leader. The American is second on the all-time list with 11,944 aces throughout his career, but trails Ivo Karlovic by 1,608 aces. However, the 34-year-old Isner is six years younger than the Croatian and likely has several more years to make up ground.

 Player  Career Aces
Ivo Karlovic  13,552
John Isner  11,944
Roger Federer  11,271
Goran Ivanisevic  10,131

Isner wrapped up his season with a 30-18 record, including a title in Newport (d. Bublik) and runner-up finish at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami (l. to Federer).

As part of Infosys ATP Match Stats, ATP began recording ace tallies in 1991. The tally comprises aces hit in singles main draw matches from ATP World Tour tournaments, Grand Slams and the Olympics (from 2008 on). Aces in Davis Cup competition are not included.

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Monfils Keeps Pressure On Fellow Contenders In Pursuit Of London Spot

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Monfils Keeps Pressure On Fellow Contenders In Pursuit Of London Spot

Bautista Agut loses to De Minaur

Gael Monfils kept up the pressure on Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini in their bids to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals with a second-round victory at the Rolex Paris Masters on Wednesday.

Monfils, the No. 13 seed and runner-up at the ATP Masters 1000 event in 2009 and 2010, knocked out fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-6(4) in 86 minutes to add 90 points to his 2019 ATP Race To London tally.

The 33-year-old Monfils is currently in 11th position (2,440 points), 220 points behind eighth-placed Berrettini (2,660), who plays 2008 Paris champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga later today. Monfils appeared at the 2016 season finale at The O2 in London.

Monfils escaped from 0/40 at 2-2 in the first set, and, after Paire hit his first double fault of the match at 4-5, 30/30, Monfils struck a brilliant forehand down the line to clinch the 33-minute opener.

Paire took a 2/0 lead in the second set tie-break, but his forehand soon began to break down and Monfils won the next four points. The match ended when Paire hit a forehand volley into the net.

Monfils, who captured his eighth ATP Tour title at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (d. Wawrinka) in February, is now 36-17 on the season and goes on to face Moldovan Radu Albot on Thursday.

De Minaur

Elsewhere, Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who will bid to retain his title at the Next Gen ATP Finals next week in Milan, held his nerve to beat the consistent Roberto Bautista Agut, who sits in ninth position in the 2019 ATP Race To London (2,530 points).

De Minaur moved up one place to 17th (1,775 points) after a 7-6(2), 7-6(1) win over Bautista Agut in two hours and 17 minutes, having recovered from a 3-5 deficit and saved two set points at 4-5 in the second set.

He will now challenge seventh seed and first-time Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won 35 of 38 first-service points in a 7-6(3), 6-3 win over American Taylor Fritz in 74 minutes. Tsitsipas is now 49-23 in a career-best season, which includes two ATP Tour titles at the Open 13 Provence (d. Kukushkin) and at the Millennium Estoril Open (d. Cuevas).

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Under Pressure, Milan-Bound Kecmanovic Already Plays Like Top 30 Player

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Under Pressure, Milan-Bound Kecmanovic Already Plays Like Top 30 Player

Serbian set to make his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals

Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic hasn’t been around the ATP Tour for long. The 20-year-old is in the final weeks of his first full ATP Tour season that will end at next week’s Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 5-9 November at the Allianz Cloud in Milan.

But the Belgrade native has already learned one key factor for success on Tour: Being a great player in practice doesn’t mean you’ll back it up during a match.

[They’re] a lot different. In practice, everybody’s relaxed, everybody’s making shots. Everybody’s playing great,” Kecmanovic told “But in the matches, the pressure moments, the expectations, all kinds of things [are] put into one.”

The intensity from big matches can dwindle some young players. The bright lights. The big names. It all gets to be too much at times.

But that hasn’t been the case for Kecmanovic. In pressure moments, he has thrived during his breakout season that has seen him check off a list of career accomplishments, including his maiden ATP Tour final and first Top 10 win.

The 6’0” right-hander enters Milan at No. 55 in the ATP Rankings, but during break points, he’s been a Top 30 player all season.

Kecmanovic is 17th on Tour in break points saved this season, having saved 64.34 per cent (157/244), better than Nitto ATP Finals qualifiers Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s Milan champion, and Russian Daniil Medvedev, who competed at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017.

Kecmanovic will be the sixth seed in Milan, but among his fellow Next Gen ATP Finals qualifiers, he’s second in this category, behind only Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who has saved 64.83 per cent (188/290).

I don’t see him getting tight very often,” Miro Hrvatin, Kecmanovic’s coach for the past three years, told “He believes in his strokes. I think whenever the ball is in play he has a chance.”

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On the returning end, Kecmanovic has been nearly as proficient. He is 27th on Tour in break points converted (40%, 98/245), slightly behind Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Dominic Thiem (40.41%) but ahead of London hopeful and 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev (38.72%).

The way I handled things on court, I think at some of the key moments, the pressure moments, I handled them all pretty well… I played really good and I didn’t let a lot of things get to me… I was calm, I was focussed, and I’m really happy about that,” Kecmanovic said.

His reward has been a steady climb up the ATP Rankings and reaching two of his biggest goals: cracking the Top 100 and qualifying for Milan.

Kecmanovic started the season at No. 131 in the ATP Rankings, but by March, following his quarter-final run at the BNP Paribas Open, he had already reached No. 95. The Serbian, who had just one tour-level win before the season’s first ATP Masters 1000 event, became the first lucky loser to reach the Indian Wells quarter-finals (l. to Raonic) since the Masters 1000 series began in 1990.

After Indian Wells, he started to believe that he can really play with those guys and be there in the Top 100,” Hrvatin said.

<a href=''>Miomir Kecmanovic</a> hits a volley in the third round of the <a href=''>BNP Paribas Open</a>.

Kecmanovic made his maiden ATP Tour final in June at the Turkish Airlines Open Antalya (l. to Sonego) and in August, during the U.S. summer hard-court swing, the Serbian beat Zverev for his first Top 10 win and a place inside the Top 50 (49).

After each win you get a little bit more confidence, especially after big wins, and I think that just knowing that I can beat these guys, play with these guys, I think it just helps me a lot more to compete,” Kecmanovic said.

His rise has come on quicker than even he thought, but he’s eager to show he belongs among the best in the sport.

I’m definitely happy with the way I played and [how] everything has come together. I’ve been able to keep it up for an extended period of time,” Kecmanovic said. “[I need to] stay focussed, work even harder, not get satisfied, relaxed, just to be mentally in it. In practice, work hard, believe in it, and I think it’ll be good.”

In Milan, Kecmanovic’s play under pressure might be more important than ever. The tournament will have no-ad scoring for the third consecutive year and tie-breaks at three-all.

“It’s a great group of guys, they had so much success, a lot of them,” Kecmanovic said of the Milan qualifiers. “It’s nice to have a breakthrough at such a young age, and I’m really happy to be a part of this.”

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Nadal Faces His Kryptonite Indoors In Paris

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Nadal Faces His Kryptonite Indoors In Paris

Spaniard looking to put past Rolex Paris Masters struggles behind him this week

As the story of Superman goes, the fictional superhero is nearly indestructible, with only the mineral kryptonite leaving him susceptible to damage.

In the tennis realm, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has shown flashes of near invincible powers of his own in 2019. The 33-year-old is 48-6 this season and is the current leader in the ATP Race To London. Like Superman, however, Nadal does seemingly have one weakness: The Spaniard seems a little more vulnerable on indoor hard courts than he does on other surfaces. It’s on an indoor hard court where Nadal will contend his next match as he faces Adrian Mannarino in the second round of the Rolex Paris Masters on Wednesday.

Of his 84 ATP Tour titles, including four so far in 2019, Nadal has lifted only one trophy at an indoor hard-court event. That effort came at the 2005 Mutua Madrid Open, before the tournament moved to clay. Since then, his record on the surface has been less than stellar, at least in comparison to his results on other surfaces.

The reason Nadal seems to struggle this time of year, he argues, is partly due to the toll that the grind takes on his body going into the last stretch of the season. A combination of fatigue and the normal knocks he picks up through the course of a year seemingly conspire against him.

“That is the reality; to deny this would be to deceive myself and everyone else,” Nadal said.

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Since turning professional in 2001, Nadal has competed at the Rolex Paris Masters just six times prior to this year’s event. On two of those occasions, his campaign was cut short due to injury: In 2008, the then-World No. 1 was forced to retire from his quarter-final match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury. Then in 2017, Nadal withdrew ahead of a quarter-final clash with Filip Krajinovic, again citing a knee injury. His best result at the last ATP Masters 1000 event of the season came in 2007 when he lost in the final to David Nalbandian.

Ironically, the city where Nadal struggles for more positive results near the end of the year happens to be in the same city where the Spaniard shines most brightly months earlier.

“Everyone knows that [Paris] is the most important city in my career, so I love being in Paris,” the 12-time Roland Garros champion said ahead of his opener in Bercy. “It’s an important tournament because it’s an ATP Masters 1000. In addition to being on a tough surface, it’s a tournament where I have arrived many times without being able to conquer it. Even though I haven’t had the best showings here for a lot of reasons, I don’t have any bad feelings for the event itself.”

Coach Carlos Moya shares his pupil’s sentiments. “There have been a variety of reasons, one being the time of year,” Moya said. “Most seasons, he’s gone into Paris with very little rest; he’s entered the event physically worn and hasn’t been able to play to the best of his abilities. In fact, since I’ve come on board as a coach, that’s been the case — he hasn’t been in the best shape to allow him to perform at his best.”

Fellow Spaniard player Marc Lopez has his own thoughts as to why the Rolex Paris Masters remains one of three Masters 1000 events (Miami and Shanghai are the other two) that has managed to elude Nadal throughout his career.

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“The courts at this event are slick and Rafa’s game isn’t best suited for that,” Lopez said. “His rivals, [Roger] Federer and [Novak] Djokovic play in a way that’s more effective on that surface. The ball doesn’t bounce high, it tends to skid more and doesn’t give a player much time to react.”

The indoor hard courts and his own physical weariness are the hurdles Nadal must overcome as the season comes to a close this week in Paris and then at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. Lopez hopes Nadal can dig deep this year and finish 2019 in impressive form.

“He’s not always at his best when he arrives here,” Lopez said. “The past several years, he’s played exhausted after a gruelling season. This time, I hope he can end at his best and continue surprising everyone. I predict he’ll do better than usual at these events.”

For Nadal’s part, he’s doing everything in his power to boost his chances and make the most of every opportunity presented to him.

“It’s clear the breaks come less frequently on the faster indoor courts,” Nadal said. “It’s a matter of staying fresh and giving myself the best chance to succeed. I think I’m taking all the right steps to achieve that and to put myself in a situation to be 100 per cent competitive. That’s my main objective.”

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WTA Finals: Elina Svitolina beats Simona Halep to reach semi-finals

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Defending champion Elina Svitolina beat Simona Halep to become the first player to secure a place in the semi-finals of the 2019 WTA Finals in China.

The Ukrainian world number eight won 7-5 6-3 in Shenzhen to guarantee progression with one group game left.

Halep plays Czech Karolina Pliskova in her final game with the winner qualifying for the semis.

Pliskova beat Bianca Andreescu when the Canadian retired with a knee injury after losing the first set 6-3.

US Open champion Andreescu, who is now unable to qualify for the next round, was leading 2-0 when she landed awkwardly, jarring her left knee and retired despite attempting to continue with heavy strapping.

Svitolina will top Purple Group if she wins her final match against Andreescu, if the 19-year-old is fit to play on Friday.

Svitolina and Halep were well matched for large parts of the gruelling match but Svitolina was more consistent at crucial moments.

After a tight first set, she broke serve to love at 6-5 to take a 1-0 lead, helped by errors off the racquet of her Romanian opponent.

World number five Halep broke early in the second set, but Svitolina hit back immediately and then broke to love again to move 5-3 in front as Halep faltered.

Svitolina had to save two break points when as she served for the match – but eventually clinched the win on her first match point.

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Thiem Extends Winning Streak, But Works Hard In Paris

  • Posted: Oct 30, 2019

Thiem Extends Winning Streak, But Works Hard In Paris

Austrian star breaks once for third-round berth

Dominic Thiem extended his winning streak to six matches on Wednesday as he began his bid to capture the Rolex Paris Masters title.

The fifth-seeded Austrian, straight off lifting an ATP Tour-best fifth trophy this year at the Erste Bank Open (d. Schwartzman), battled hard to beat Milos Raonic 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4 over two hours and 38 minutes.

Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Thiem, who has won two of his past three tournaments, withstood 54 winners — including 30 aces — from Raonic and goes on to face Belgian No. 12 seed David Goffin or Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the third round on Thursday.

Thiem recovered from a 1/3 deficit with six straight points in the first-set tie-break, which ended with the 26-year-old forcing Raonic into a backhand error. Raonic saved three break points at 4-4 in the second set and later capitalised at the net with a backhand volley to level the scoreline.

Three forehand errors by Raonic at 4-4 in the deciding set handed Thiem his first service break. Minutes later, the Austrian finished with a forehand winner to close out his 46th match win of a career-best ATP Tour season, which will conclude with a season finale appearance at The O2 in London from 10-17 November.

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