The last year's Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem had to dig deep for the second time this week in Paris, ousting the thundering youngster Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 in two and a half hours, barely escaping the deciding set and more drama on the court.
The Kazakh player delivered everything he had in his arsenal against the better-ranked riva, with booming serves, touchy drop shots, slices, volleys (he rushed to the net around 70 times) and flat attacking strokes that took the rhythm out of the Austrian completely, wasting two set points in the fourth set that could have kept him in the match and the tournament for at least one more set.
Bublik landed 51 winners but also 50 unforced errors, missing some crucial volleys and allowing Thiem to make a comeback and seal the deal without spending more time on the court. The Austrian delivered more measured numbers, with 35 winners and just 16 unforced errors on the tally, getting broken only twice and scoring five breaks to move over the top and set the third-round encounter with Pablo Cuevas.
Dominic made a convincing start, finding the range behind the initial shot and taking 12 of the first 14 points to create the lead that carried him towards 6-3. Alexander opened a 5-2 advantage in set number two, losing serve in game nine while serving for the set and taking it 8-6 in the breaker after fending off a set point at 5-6.
A single break for Thiem in game eight decided the winner of the third set but Bublik was far from beaten, hammering his strokes to race into a 5-2 lead in the fourth set, with two set points up for grabs on the return in the next game.
Dominic saved those and gained a massive boost, winning the last five points of the match to grab the set 7-5 and secure the place in the next round against a very tricky opponent. "I didn't play well today but I have to give credit to Sascha, he made my life on the court very tough with many shots that are not easy for my game to deal with.
Those were four strange and difficult sets for me and I'm happy for not having to play the fifth set, which was very close to happening. I feel both the pressure and composure after the last year's run here, I want to go deep but I also know the level of current men's tennis and how tough it is to repeat that.
I know I can go deep if I bring my best tennis but, on the other hand, it will be an early exit if I don't. My next rival Pablo Cuevas beat me in 2015, he is one of the best players on clay when his game is on, I will try to step up and improve my game to stand a chance of defeating him."