Dominic Thiem didn't play his best tennis at the beginning of the season at the ATP Cup, hoping for a better run at the year's first Major in Melbourne. The Austrian could have finished his campaign already in the second round, prevailing over Alex Bolt from two sets to one down to set the third-round clash against the young American Taylor Fritz.
The better-ranked player scored a 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 50 minutes, winning 20 points more than his opponent to advance into the last 16. Fritz fired 20 aces, which wasn't enough to keep him safe, not even in the shortest points up to four strokes.
Thiem fended off six out of seven break chances, reducing the initial shot's damage and earning five breaks to control the scoreboard and cross the finish line first. The Austrian had 50 winners and 30 unforced errors, forcing over 40 mistakes from Taylor, who couldn't take more than a set despite a solid effort and positive numbers on his tally.
Fritz followed Thiem's pace in the mid-range and most extended exchanges but lost the steam in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, where Dominic earned his victory. The American saved two break points in the opener's fifth game with service winners, unable to do the same on the third that the Austrian converted with a forehand winner that sent him in front.
Dominic cemented the advantage with a service winner in the next game and earned another break at 4-2 following Taylor's backhand forced error. Playing on a high level in those moments, Thiem secured the opening set with a forehand winner in game eight, hoping for more of the same in the upcoming sets.
Dominic Thiem toppled Taylor Fritz in four sets in Melbourne.
Serving at 1-1 in the second set, Taylor sprayed a forehand mistake to find himself down and squandered three break chances in the next one to fall 3-1 down.
Thiem had to dig deep behind the initial shot again at 3-2, erasing three break points to remain in front and holding at love in game eight to open a 5-3 gap. Serving for the set at 5-4, Dominic painted a forehand crosscourt winner to wrap it up, moving closer to the finish line.
Giving his best to remain in touch, Taylor held after deuces at 3-3 with a smash winner, serving well until the tie break that he had to win to avoid a defeat. The American forged a 5-2 advantage after an unforced error from the Austrian and claimed the breaker 7-5 with a service winner to introduce the fourth set.
Thiem earned two break chances with a powerful forehand winner at 3-2, seizing the first with another cracking forehand but getting broken in the next game following Fritz's direct point from his forehand wing. The American landed an ace down the T line to level the score at 4-4, failing to create break chances after two deuces in game nine and serving to remain in the encounter.
Eager to avoid another tie break and more drama, Thiem grabbed a break at love following Fritz's double fault, sealing the deal and advancing into the second week.