News ID: 265022
Published: 1049 GMT January 31, 2020

Thiem beats Zverev to set up AO final showdown with Djokovic

Thiem beats Zverev to set up AO final showdown with Djokovic
WILLIAM WEST/AFP

Dominic Thiem stretches for a return against Alex Zverev at the Australian Open semifinals at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, Australia, on January 31, 2020.

Dominic Thiem won the new-generation battle with Alex Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(4) to reach his first Australian Open final on Friday and set up the ultimate test against Melbourne Park maestro Novak Djokovic.

In an enthralling semifinal featuring a rain interruption, a lighting failure and a plenty of drama besides, the fifth-seeded Austrian shrugged off a sluggish start and was braver on the big points under the roof at Rod Laver Arena, Reuters reported.

He thrashed two blazing forehand winners to raise three match points in the decisive tiebreak, then sealed it with a cross-court volley to book his third Grand Slam final after losing the last two French Open deciders to Rafa Nadal.

“Both of us could have won this today,” Thiem, who dumped Nadal from the quarterfinals, said on court.

“Maybe (I have) a little bit of experience, little bit of something else. He’s just 22, maybe not long before he makes it to his first Grand Slam final.

“It was an unreal match, again two tiebreaks, so tough and so close. It was almost impossible to break him.”

With the men’s Grand Slams dominated for years by the ‘Big Three’ of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, Thiem will bid to become the first man born in the 1990s to win a major title.

 

Garbine comeback

 

Garbine Muguruza won only one match between June and December last year. Suffering illness, she was then thrashed 0-6 by a qualifier in her first set at the Australian Open.

Now the 26-year-old faces American surprise-package Sofia Kenin in the final in Melbourne on Saturday, on the cusp of a third Grand Slam title, AFP reported.

The Venezuelan-born Spaniard has been keen to play down the swift transformation in her fortunes, but the facts speak for themselves.

Dial back to July 2017, when Muguruza won Wimbledon to go with her French Open title a year earlier. In September 2017 she rose to world number one.

What followed was a gradual but marked decline that she is only reversing now.

Muguruza won one title in 2018, in Monterrey, Mexico, the other high point reaching the French Open semifinals.

She retained her Monterrey crown in 2019 but lost in the first round at Wimbledon in July, precipitating a dire run where she reached only one second round in five tournaments.

In Melbourne, Muguruza bristled at one reporter's suggestion that she had been stuck in a "coma" for the last two years.

"I think a 'coma' is a pretty strong comment. I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years," said Muguruza, unseeded at a Grand Slam for the first time since 2014.

"I just think you struggle as a player and there are moments where things don't go your way.

"You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again."

Come back again it certainly has and Muguruza, now at 32 in the world rankings, will dart up to 11th if she beats Kenin in the final.

 

'We felt ALIVE'

 

Despite giving the impression that she merely waited for her A-game to return, Muguruza in fact made two major decisions in November.

The first was to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. It was a test physically and mentally, says Muguruza, who hates cold weather.

It helped clear her head of tennis for a few days. "HELL YES! We felt ALIVE!" she exclaimed on Instagram.

More significantly, Muguruza reunited with fellow former Wimbledon champion and compatriot Conchita Martinez as her coach.

Martinez was on Muguruza's team in 2017 when she won Wimbledon. The 47-year-old memorably said in Melbourne that they were the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of tennis – meaning they were destined to be together again.

 

First final

 

Kenin, meanwhile, will be making her debut in a Grand Slam final when she faces Muguruza but what she lacks in experience the American more than makes up for in courage and confidence.

Kenin has shown at Melbourne Park she has the game to beat the biggest names, building on a stellar 2019 when she won all three of her singles titles to reach a career-high world ranking of 12, Reuters reported.

“No matter who I’m playing, where I’m playing, I’m going to fight for it. It doesn’t matter,” she said.

“Of course, I have a lot of respect for my opponents when I’m playing.

“When I’m going on court, I’m there to win, I’m there to do my job. I’m doing my best.”

Spaniard Muguruza lost her only prior meeting with Moscow-born Kenin, in Beijing last year, and knows the American will be no pushover.

“I think she’s playing great. I think since a while she’s just progressing up in the rankings and in the results,” said Muguruza.

“So I think she deserves to be in the final with the tennis she has been showing.”

 

 

 

 

 

   
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