Rejuvenated Thiem ready to face red-hot Raonic in Indian Wells semis

Rejuvenated Thiem ready to face red-hot Raonic in Indian Wells semis

The Austrian, playing solidly all week, had only won three matches coming into the Desert.

Despite his 4-0 record against Gael Monfils, Dominic Thiem’s slated quarterfinal against the Frenchman in Indian Wells had the potential to be a blockbuster.

However, Monfils—playing some of the best tennis of his career—was unable to take the court due to an Achilles injury, sending Thiem through to the semifinals, where he’ll face Milos Raonic.

For Thiem, it’s his second semifinal of the season, one that’s seen illness have an impact on his results. And while he didn’t get to face Monfils, the world No. 8 has passed multiple tests throughout the tournament.

In his opening match, Thiem comfortably handled Jordan Thompson—an Australian capable of giving fits to any number of top players—in straight sets. He then next faced the 27th seed, Gilles Simon, in the third round. Having won eight of their 10 prior encounters, Thiem didn’t allow the veteran Frenchman to get a foothold in the match, defeating him 6-3, 6-1, in just over an hour.

While everything was working perfectly for Thiem in that match, facing Simon—a dogged baseliner—offered little preparation for his next opponent, Ivo Karlovic, whom he was facing for the first time.

Against the career ace leader, it was Thiem who looked like a machine: The Austrian got in 87 percent of his first serves and won 85 percent of his serve points overall. He only required a break in each set to clinch the match before it reached an hour’s time.

Thiem was going into the match with Monfils with relatively fresh legs and now, will be even more rested for Raonic. It’s a good place to be in, given how his 2019 campaign started.

In his first tournament of the year in Qatar, Thiem fell to Pierre-Hugues Herbert in straight sets. At the Australian Open, he was pushed to the brink by Benoit Paire in the first round, then had to retire against wild card Alexei Popyrin in the second due to illness, which ended up sidelining him for nearly a month.

Thiem returned to action in Buenos Aires, Argentina, part of the “Golden Swing” of clay-court tournaments through Latin America. Diego Schwartzman stopped him in the semis, but the two reached the doubles final together. Surprisingly, Thiem followed up that run with a disappointing showing at the Rio Open, losing to the unseeded Serbian—and eventual champion—Laslo Djere in straight sets.

His performances leading up to Indian Wells wouldn’t have given much indication of how’s he done so far in the tournament. While his best results have come on clay, Thiem is no slouch on other surfaces: In his last Masters event indoors in Paris a few months ago, he advanced to the semifinals there, too.

He hasn’t won one of the most prestigious prizes in the game yet, and will face another tough task in Raonic, whom he’s 0-2 against. However, they haven’t seen each other across the net since 2016 and Thiem’s game has evolved over that time.

As he tries to become the first Austrian male to ever reach the final in Indian Wells, Thiem’s level of play shown thus far should bode well for his results the rest of the year.