Entering this week, Dominic Thiem stands at No. 111 in the ATP rankings. That position is not high enough to make the main draw of Roland Garros, a tournament the Austrian wants to get into on his own merit.

The two-time French Open runner-up took a step forward in achieving that Thursday with his most decisive win of 2023 so far. At the Millennium Estoril Open, Thiem outclassed Ben Shelton, 6-2, 6-2, in moving through to the last eight.

“The results in the first quarter of the year were not there,” Thiem admitted during his on-court interview. “This part of the season, I love it. I have a big short-term goal to still reach the main draw of the French Open. All the points are helping me.”

Having won his ATP debut on clay two days earlier, Shelton began on a positive note—his deep hitting and a well-disguised drop shot netting a 2-0 lead. But proceedings turned quickly in favor of the knowledgeable dirtballer, as Thiem mixed up pace, came forward, and blasted strikes from the baseline to reel off six consecutive games.


After losing his opening service game, Thiem did not face another break point.

After losing his opening service game, Thiem did not face another break point.

The Austrian’s heavy ball proved effective throughout the day, resulting in winning 57 percent of his return points. In a five-deuce game, Shelton dropped serve for a fifth time when he double-faulted long to fall behind 4-1 in the second set. Thiem served out the contest when the 20-year-old’s forehand return sailed long.

“The higher the ball bounces, the better for me. Today was great, warm weather, not windy,” Thiem said. “The courts are also pretty fast, they’re dry, so it’s taking the spin very well. It suits my game pretty good.

“I had a lot of respect going into the match, the way he serves and his athletic abilities. The balls are coming really fast, so I was trying to use my clay-court experience today and it was very good.”

Thiem posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season, upping his record to 3-8. He awaits the winner of No. 4 seed Roberto Bautista Agut and France’s Quentin Halys. The 29-year-old is seeking his first tour-level trophy since joining the major winners’ club at the 2020 US Open, a breakthrough that proceeded a string of injury setbacks in 2021 and 2022.

Did You Know: Thiem got his first look at Shelton's game on Monday, when he and Joao Sousa teamed up to beat the American and his former University of Florida roommate Duarte Vale, 6-4, 6-2.