Thiem Saves 1 M.P. To Edge Rublev

Dominic Thiem showcased once again his formidable powers of resilience on clay courts at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on Tuesday. The fifth-seeded Austrian saved one match point in a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 victory over #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev for a place in the third round in as many years.

Thiem, who has now contested 10 clay-court matches this year (9-1 record), led Rublev 4-1 in the deciding set before his 20-year-old opponent recovered and held one match point opportunity at 5-4, 40/30.

For long periods Rublev had looked set to cause an upset against one of the ATP World Tour’s strongest performers on red dirt, but two run-around forehand winners from Thiem at 5-5 in the second set triggered a turn in fortune. Squandering a set point on Rublev’s serve at 4-5, 30/40, the Austrian regained his groundstroke timing to reel off six of the next seven games to lead 4-1 in the decider.

However, the damage didn’t end Rublev’s challenge. The World No. 33 continued to play aggressively and close to the baseline to break back in a 12-point sixth game en route to 4-4. In forcing Thiem to slide into backhands angled out of the court, Rublev converted his fifth break point opportunity of the ninth game with a backhand winner down the line for 5-4.

The elation was short-lived. Serving for the match, Rublev came within one point of clinching his second win over a Top 10 player in the ATP Rankings at 40/30, but went all-out in hitting a forehand long. Thiem broke back and made the pressure tell, taking Rublev’s serve to 15 to complete victory in two hours and 40 minutes.

Thiem, who was playing his first match for five weeks due to a right ankle injury, will next prepare for a third-round encounter on Thursday against ninth-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic, the 2013 and 2015 titlist, or Borna Coric of Croatia.

Elsewhere, wild card Gilles Simon won an all-French clash to beat No. 16 seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 for a second-round meeting against Karen Khachanov of Russia.

“It was a very tough match,” said Simon. “Physically, too… It was very close. My feeling is that there were key points all the time. All the games were tight. The points were long.”

When asked about Khachanov, Simon said, “It’s a different style of game. We’ll see tomorrow what the key will be. I will need to switch quite quickly. I had three matches in a row against three different players that made no mistakes, they were difficult to outrun. This helped me against Adrian today. But now I will have to change things up, and change things up quickly. It will not be easy.”

There were also loud cheers for Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato, who recorded a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina in 72 minutes. Canada’s Milos Raonic, the No. 14 seed, is his next opponent.

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