Dominic Thiem was made to work hard in his opening match at the Erste Bank Open on Tuesday, but fought well to overcome Vitaliy Sachko 6-4, 7-5 in Vienna.
The World No. 3 landed 20 winners and won nine of 13 net points to improve to 14-8 at the ATP 500. Thiem was regularly tested from late in the first set by Sachko, who broke the second seed on four occasions on his tour-level debut.
“The match was not easy at all. I heard pretty late last night that I was not going to play Kei [Nishikori] and that I was going to play Vitaliy,” said Thiem. “Of course, the past days I was practising towards Kei, preparing for Kei. I know him, we already had five matches. Suddenly, [I was] playing against an opponent who already had two good matches in qualifying, who maybe I only saw for two minutes on TV.”
Thiem is competing for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month. The 6’1” right-hander is seeking his third straight trophy in Austria, following consecutive title runs on home soil last year in Kitzbühel and Vienna.
“I wanted to present myself well in front of the home crowd and to find the right match intensity,” said Thiem. “The high match intensity was not easy and he was playing well, especially from the moment I was 5-1 up in the first set. From that moment on, I thought it was a pretty close and decent match. I am very happy with how I closed it out and how I found a pretty good intensity towards the end of the match.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
Thiem will next face the winner of the final match of the day between Stan Wawrinka and Cristian Garin. The 27-year-old owns a 1-3 ATP Head2Head record against Wawrinka and is yet to meet Garin at tour-level.
Thiem began the match in peak form, as he ripped groundstroke winners from the baseline and overpowered his opponent to stride into a 5-1 lead. But the Austrian lost his concentration and was dragged into a battle by Sachko, who began to find his range on his return to break Thiem’s serve on three consecutive occasions.
The US Open champion raised his level in the second set, as he varied the pace on his backhand and attacked with his forehand to open a 4-1 lead. Despite dropping serve for a fourth time, Thiem produced an impressive finish to close the match at 6-5. The second seed ended consecutive rallies with backhand winners up the line to book his spot in the second round.