Training partners & friends Dominic Thiem and Ernests Gulbis meet for the fifth time at this level. Thiem has taken three straight matches between the two with all of those coming in the last 12 months.
Dominic Thiem vs. (Q) Ernests Gulbis
Thiem has been one of the in-form players on tour since Wimbledon. The young Austrian has won a pair of ATP titles on clay in Umag and Gstaad before falling in the Kitzbuhel semifinals last week. He will be making that transition from dirt to the hard courts in North American on a relatively short turnaround. Last summer, that was not a good switch for him as he lost both his U.S. Open prep matches at the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters. That was his first summer hitting the North American circuit, so one would expect that Thiem should have a better idea of what needs to be done to succeed this summer. He does hae a dozen matches on his odometer since July 23rd, so there is a chance that could have a bit of wear and tear on his wheels heading into this swing.
For Gulbis, it has been a season of pain and rare patches of winning. He finally won back-to-back matches in May after going about two months on a six match losing streak. Since Wimbledon, he went 1-2 on the clay court swing in Europe before heading to qualifying this week in Montreal. In qualifying, his serve has looked fairly solid. It has been very good when he can get the first serve in routinely, winning nearly 80 percent on his first serve through two qualifying rounds. Having played a couple of matches on court already should give Gulbis a better feel for the courts heading into this match-up.
Something has clicked for Thiem this summer. Perhaps it was bottoming out by losing both of his Davis Cup ties in Austria’s match-up against The Netherlands. Thiem lost a five set match against Thiemo de Bakker and then was dumped out in straight sets by Robin Haase. It had to be particularly harsh to know that a win in either rubber could have set Austria up to win the tie. Since then, it’s been all roses for Thiem. He won eleven straight matches before running on fumes against Phillipp Kohlschreiber in the Kitzbuhel semifinals last week 6-0, 7-6.
It has also been thorough domination for Thiem against his friend Gulbis lately. Last summer, they met at the U.S. Open and it looked like the elder statesmen of the duo was going to deliver another lesson to his younger counterpart. Gulbis took a two sets to love lead, but Thiem was able to take advantage of a physically compromised Gulbis to storm back for the win in five sets. Thiem would go on to make the fourth round, his best showing at a Grand Slam. Since then, they have met once on an indoor hard court on Rotterdam this Spring and on clay in Nice back in May. Both times, Thiem walloped Gulbis in straight sets.
This is one of the more unique situations on tour as Gulbis and Thiem are currently sharing the services of Gunter Bresnik. Bresnik has gone on record saying that Gulbis has been struggling with some personal issues this year. He chose to stay with Thiem at the Kitzbuhel tournament last week when Gulbis jetted for Montreal. Bresnik has made no bones about it, he is sticking more with the person he believes is working harder. That has been Thiem without question. How he will handle the preparation for both in this one is anyone’s question. Gulbis could obviously use the boost of winning some matches. Thiem may benefit from just getting in a little court time and putting forth more effort in Cincinnati.
Gulbis wins in three sets