Dominic Thiem will be hoping for a more straightforward outing in his French Open match on Saturday, facing clay veteran Pablo Cuevas for a spot in the fourth round. A Frenchman awaits there – either Gael Monfils or wildcard Antoine Hoang.
Thiem has not looked like a player seen as the third favourite coming into the event. He has had to tough it out against two players who spend most of their time on the Challenger tour. Alexander Bublik developed a reputation as a power hitter with a huge serve but there would have been little expectation he could take a set against the Austrian. Things could have been even worse for him with Bublik having multiple set points to take it to a decider. As it is, Thiem fought back and went on to win the last four games of the match to advance 6-3 6-7 6-3 7-5. “Today was very difficult,” he admitted.”It was a tough match-up for me because there were almost no rallies… He gave me no rhythm at all. He did it very well, actually… I was playing really bad once I got into the rally, which made it even more difficult. Somehow the fire never got there.
Cuevas has always been a solid clay player on the lower ATP tournaments but will be disappointed that his best run at the French is just a third round, which he has done four of the last five years now. He was cruising against Kyle Edmund before the Brit retired early in the third set, with the score at 7-6 6-3 2-1. The Uruguayan has two Challenger titles on clay this year and was also a finalist in Estoril, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas there.
A statement win to boost his confidence ahead of the second week in Paris will do wonders for the Austrian, who is in title contending form right now. The lapses in concentration may be punished by better players but he will still need to have his wits about him against Cuevas.
Prediction – Dominic Thiem in straight sets