Both Dominic Thiem and Philipp Kohlschreiber will be seeking their first ATP-level grass court title on Sunday at the Mercedes Cup. For Thiem, it’s his first grass court final. Kohlschreiber takes part in his second, but it is the first for him since 2008 in Halle.
(3) Dominic Thiem vs (7) Philipp Kohlschreiber
Thiem scored his biggest grass court win to-date in the semifinals with a three set grinder over top seeded Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4. It was a roller coaster for the Austrian as he blew a 5-0 lead in the second set and was fortunate that Federer blew two match points in the same set. To Thiem’s credit, he kept his composure to work the win. He did it mainly playing his baseline style also. With Federer attacking the net, Thiem still managed to stay back on the court more often than not and executed his offense. The third seed had some double fault issues again with six, but offset that with nine aces. He was broken three times on eight chances.
Kohlschreiber had much less drama in his match against Juan Martin Del Potro in the semifinals. Coming into the match, Del Potro had not been broken all week. The 7th seeded German changed that with a pair of breaks in the opening set and one more to clinch the win. Kohlschreiber was nearly flawless on his first serve, winning 27 of 29 points. He only allowed Delpo one look at a break chance and saved it. Kohlschreiber himself has been broken just once this week as he continued an impressive run of results on German grass courts. The win over Del Potro moves Kohlschreiber to 19-5 in German-based grass court tournaments since 2011.
This will be Thiem and Kohlschreiber’s third all-time meeting with the German holding a 2-0 advantage. Both of their previous encounters came on clay. The 7th seed beat Thiem in a three set thriller in Munich this year 7-6 (7), 4-6, 7-6 (4) to win the title. Last year, Kohlschreiber topped Thiem 6-0, 7-6 in Kitzbuhel. With two wins over his opponent already and Kohlschreiber’s grass court experience, he’ll fancy his chances to win his 8th career title.
Thiem will likely be able to get away with more play from the baseline in this one as Kohlschreiber does employ that style as well. The key for Thiem is going to be finding consistency on his serve. He was all over the map in the second set against Federer and was forced to save multiple break points in the third set. He did come through, but put himself under a lot of stress in the last two sets. Kohlschreiber was rarely troubled against Del Potro and will feel comfortable about his potential to match Thiem serve for serve.
When the rallies do get going, Kohlschreiber would likely want to stay away from the third seed’s backhand when possible. That is still a major weapon for Thiem, even with a solid forehand to boot. It is the forehand side of Thiem though that has shown a bigger proclivity to producing errors. For Kohlschreiber, he’s about equal off both wings. He won’t wow with big shots, but his consistency is good and he’s shown a good ability to put points away on grass.
The other thing for Thiem in this one is going to be how he gets back up emotionally for this title match. His reaction after beating Federer on grass showed that he realized what a big accomplishment it was, even if this version of Federer is not at his best. His words summed it up, “I can’t believe it. To beat Federer on grass is a dream.”
With the whirlwind turnaround from Roland Garros to this point, the third seed has already accomplished a ton this week. The reaction and post-Federer comments yield a bit of that “I’m just happy to be here” feel for the The Pig on Thiem. Again, not that you won’t find a lack of effort from him in the final, but he could be emotionally and somewhat physically spent at this juncture.
Kohlschreiber’s confidence will be high considering how he has played this week and that he has two wins over Thiem already on the Austrian’s preferred surface. Thiem has already scored some big wins for his grass court resume this week, but Kohlschreiber is the Lawnmower Man of Germany and I expect him to cut down Thiem in the final.
Kohlschreiber wins in straight sets