Back in 2017, world no. 1 Andy Murray battled against Dominic Thiem in the semi-final in Barcelona, with the young Austrian prevailing 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and 15 minutes to advance into the 12th ATP final. It was the first victory for Dominic over Andy in three encounters, playing with determination and aggression that carried him towards the win in the decider and the clash against Rafael Nadal.
Thiem served at only 49%, drawing the most from that to stay in touch and overpower the Briton on the return to cross the finish line first. The younger player had many more winners than Murray who struggled to find the rhythm, with Dominic getting broken four times and earning six breaks from ten opportunities to bring the match home and stay on the title course.
Andy arrived in Barcelona to seek form and more points after an early exit in Monte Carlo, scoring two victories but not playing good enough to reach the final, clinching only three triumphs in the last three events and hoping for a better form ahead of Roland Garros.
Overall, the encounter wasn't as good as it could have been but there were some great rallies and strokes, especially from Thiem's racquet, as he always wanted to stay in charge of the points. Murray served at 70% but it didn't work on that day, with no free points or a smooth execution after the initial shot.
Thiem grabbed almost half of the return points and those six breaks were enough to propel him over the finish line, beating the Briton for the first time in a career. The Austrian kicked off the encounter in the most reliable possible way, taking eight of the first nine points and opening a 4-1 advantage with another break in game five.
Andy's shots were all over the place in those moments, unable to impose his game or to make Dominic work harder in the rallies. Nonetheless, Murray pulled one break back in game six to reduce the deficit and get at least some rhythm, only to suffer another break a few minutes later, allowing Thiem to close the opening set with a hold at 5-2.
Andy held at the beginning of the second set after five deuces and one break opportunity saved, with both playing well on serve in the next five games to stay locked at 3-3. Thiem wasted another break chance in game seven and had to pay the price for that, as Andy broke for a 5-3 lead and brought the set home with a solid hold in game nine following a service winner to force a decider.
There were eight break chances in set number three and the rivals exchanged breaks in the opening games, staying close to each other after another streak of successful return games in games six and seven. Still, it was Thiem who was more focused in the closing stages, earning a match point after a massive error from Andy at 5-4 and converting it with a beautiful lob to secure the place in the final.