Dominic Thiem rallied from a one-set deficit against John Isner to prevail 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and reach the semifinals of the Madrid Open for a fourth consecutive time. Thiem struggled to get a read on the American's big serve in the first set, but he eventually settled into the match and triumphed in 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Following the encounter, the reigning US Open champion opined that returning Isner's serve was like a goalkeeper preparing to save a penalty kick in football.
"I think it is comparable to what a goalkeeper suffers when they are going to shoot a penalty," Dominic Thiem said. "If the player places the ball well and he has an adequate speed, there is simply no time to react and stop the ball. Much the same happens here."
Thiem went on to claim that in addition to a strong first serve, Isner also has a terrific kick serve on the second that rears up very high because of the spin he imparts on it. According to the Austrian, facing Isner's serve is a game of probability where you only have a 50% chance of guessing right.
"You have to guess or wait until he does not get the first serve or to be lucky to be able to return it," Thiem said. "It is like a probability of 50-50%. Besides, not only does he have a good first serve, but he also has a great second in which the ball flies very high."
Prior to the Madrid Open, Dominic Thiem had taken an extended break from competitive action, choosing to sit out of the Masters 1000 events in Miami and Monte Carlo. The Austrian is surprised he is doing so well in Madrid after the break, and on Friday he claimed he is happy with how his game is shaping up.
"I am happy with everything related to my game. I have played against three very difficult opponents," Thiem asserted. "Everything is working perfectly. I mean, the groundstrokes on the court are working well. The serve is also going well and the rest are also happy."
Dominic Thiem did acknowledge that there are a few things he still needs to work on, but he expressed satisfaction with his progress so far.
"I think I am on the right track," Thiem added. "There are still many things to improve, to recover 100 % competitive pace. I'm very happy with my progression."
Dominic Thiem went on to reveal that his Madrid run is well above his expectations, and that he is "surprised" to have come this far.
"I am surprised to be in the semifinals. I did not expect it at all," the 27-year-old said. "I just expected to play a couple of good games here against opponents from first level... It is incredibly good that I have already been able to play four (including the semifinal) games at this level. It is a great surprise for me."
With years of experience, I think I can also play fine after a break: Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem also claimed that he is looking to play fewer and fewer tournaments as he goes further in his career. Thiem has been known to cram as many events as possible into his schedule, but the Austrian now believes that playing fewer events is a positive sign - meaning that he is winning more.
"I plan to play fewer tournaments. I hope to continue playing many games, right?" Dominic Thiem said. "If I play fewer tournaments it means that things are working and that I am playing many games."
Dominic Thiem further revealed that having gone past his early 20s, he needs more personal time "to think". Thiem now finds it easier to bring his best to the court after staying away for a while, which he attributes to his experience.
"I need a little free time from time to time to be able to think," Thiem said. "I think the vast majority of players do. When I was 21, 22 or 23 I played almost every week. Now with years of experience, I think I can also play fine after a break as long as I've had in recent weeks."