Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka did not play for six and a half years entering their clash Monday evening at the Rolex Paris Masters, but the return of their Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry proved well worth the wait.
Thiem saved a match point at 3-5 in the third set before rallying past his fellow former World No. 3 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 for a place in the second round. The tantalising encounter between two of the best one-handed backhands in recent memory ultimately ended after two hours and 31 minutes at 2:22 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“It's very nice to share a great and close match like that with Stan because we have a history together of many great matches,” Thiem said. “Obviously he's one of my big idols backhand wise.”
What a finish ????
— ATP Tour (@atptour) October 31, 2023
While Thiem hit highlight-reel shots throughout the match, especially with jaw-dropping passing shots, it was Wawrinka who was first on the verge of victory. The Swiss held match point at 5-3, 40/30 in the decider, but double-faulted long. It was one of six double faults he hit in the match.
Thiem took full advantage of the small opening, getting back on serve when Wawrinka missed a forehand long. In what turned into a battle of wills, the Austrian broke again in his next return game and did not let slip his opportunity to close out the match.
When Wawrinka missed a final forehand return long, Thiem held his arms out in celebration and took a deep breath, a sign of how much the moment meant. The victory was his first at a hard-court ATP Masters 1000 event since the 2019 Rolex Paris Masters.
“The last two years I have lost more close matches than I have won, so this one is very, very important for me. The tennis has been getting better since Vienna. I beat two great guys in the qualies and now Stan in a match after saving match point, so it gives me a huge boost.”
The No. 108 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, who is continuing his pursuit of top form after suffering a wrist injury in June 2021, will next play defending champion Holger Rune. The pair met earlier this year in Monte-Carlo, where the Dane prevailed in straight sets.
Did You Know?
Thiem saved 10 of the 13 break points he faced and converted four of his five break chances on Wawrinka's serve.