First time Grand Slam semifinalist Dominic Thiem transitions to grass as he battles Sam Groth in round two of the Mercedes Cup on Thursday. The match marks Thiem’s first since his maiden Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros last week. Groth won his opener in Stuttgart in straight sets over Illya Marchenko earlier in the week.
(3) Dominic Thiem vs Sam Groth
Thiem will be playing just his 9th career match on grass as the newly minted #7 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings hits Center Court in Stuttgart. Thiem has struggled on grass with a record of just 2-6. It’s not overly surprising with the specialized surface often being the last one that many younger players get their footing on. Thiem has shown some progress on the surface since his debut on it in 2014. Last year, he won his first two matches on grass with wins over Malek Jaziri in Nottingham and Dudi Sela in round one at Wimbledon. Not exactly Murderer’s Row, but a win is a win is a win. He would lose on grass in 2015 to Kei Nishikori, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Fernando Verdasco. All respectable losses, especially his five set loss to Verdasco in round two at Wimbledon.
Groth meanwhile has shown a proclivity for these slick grass courts. He fired 15 aces in his opening round win over Marchenko, winning 44 of 48 points on serve. The Aussie is a respectable 12-9 in his career at the ATP level on grass. That includes last year’s quarterfinal run in Stuttgart and a third round showing at Wimbledon. He’s also gone 14-6 on grass at the Challenger level, where he generally did more damage than he has on tour. His massive serve remains a large weapon on these courts and if it’s in rhythm, he can be deadly. His main issue over the years has been consistency despite having that large serve in his pocket. When it’s off just a shade, the rest of his game suffers along with it. That makes Groth very susceptible against quality players like Thiem.
This will mark their second meeting all-time. It was Thiem who beat Groth 7-5, 6-2 in Miami earlier in the season. On the slower courts in Miami, the Aussie’s serve was ineffective as Thiem crafted 12 break chances and converted on three of them. Groth would win just 56 percent of his service points for the match. Thiem was not troubled on serve as he won 75 percent of the points and never faced a break point. It was a very comfortable match for Thiem and it will be Groth’s job to make life more difficult on the faster surface.
To that point, it all starts and ends with the Groth serve in this one. If the Aussie is rolling on serve, then he has a realistic shot to pull off the upset. Despite his large stature at 6’4″ and around 220 pounds, Groth is a good mover. He’s a fairly regular doubles player and has decent skills at the net, which help with the grass court game. His strategy against Thiem should point short and aggressive points. If this turns into a baseline ball basher, then the 3rd seed is going to have a much better chance to win.
Thiem will likely have a better shot at avoiding the upset by being one of the last seeds to get their first match in this week. The longer turn around has given him a bit more time to hit the practice courts. Of course, there is no practice for the howitzer of a serve that will be coming his way. That should benefit Groth as it could take Thiem some time to adjust to the court speed in live conditions.
That means a quick and rhythmic start from the Aussie is a must, if he’s going to get the win. If he starts slow, then Thiem should be able to work his way into this match. Thiem himself has a solid serve that may be difficult for Groth to break down as evidenced in their match in Miami. That has this one shaping up to be a tight one, where tiebreaks could definitely come into play in one or more sets. That would be a massive boost for Thiem. The Austrian is 15-9 in breakers this season, while Groth has struggled at 1-7.
This truly is a hard one to come to a conclusion on. Groth at his best can win this and he’s been playing on grass for over a week with matches at the Manchester Challenger last week. Thiem has not beaten a big server on this surface yet and there’s a possibility that he could still be a bit in celebratory mode after his biggest career achievement last week. The Pig won’t be surprised if Thiem is able to find a way, but the chitlens go with Groth on Thursday.
Groth wins in three sets