The 3rd seed and 2016 Halle semi-finalist Dominic Thiem has scored his 36th win of the season after a 7-6 6-2 triumph over the Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny in an hour and 37 minutes. Two years ago in Stuttgart Thiem won their only match in the deciding set and it was a solid battle today as well, at least in the opening set where Dominic saved two set points in the 12th game.
The Austrian blasted 19 aces and saved four out of five break points, creating the same number of break opportunities and breaking Mikhail three times to bring the match home safely in set number two and move to the next round where he will face Yuichi Sugita.
The first break of serve came already in the third game when Youzhny sent a backhand long and they both served well in the next six games, with Thiem serving for the set at 5-4. He had two set points in that game but sprayed two errors to waste them all and Youzhny converted his third break point with a return winner for a 5-5.
Thiem lost the ground on serve in those moments and he had to save two set points at 5-6, firing two winners that kept him in control. A tie break was also close one and Thiem grabbed it 7-5 after a volley error from Youzhny at the net, moving ahead after 62 minutes.
Carried by this momentum, Dominic lost just six points on serve in set number two and Youzhny failed to match those numbers, getting broken in game two after a cracking backhand down the line winner from Thiem. Serving to stay in the match in game eight, Mischa lost serve again when his backhand found the net and that was the last point of the match, with Dominic moving into the next round.
A two-time Halle semi-finalist and the 7th seed Kei Nishikori is through to the second round following a 6-3 7-6 triumph over a qualifier Matthias Bachinger in an hour and 23 minutes, claiming his 16th win of the season. The Japanese played well in the opening set and he managed to close the match in straight sets despite a shaky performance in set number two, staying focused in the tie break to close the match without spending too much time on the court.
Bachinger struggled on his second serve and he lost serve three times from seven break points he gave to Kei, overcoming a slow start and staying in touch with the much better rival in the second part of the match. Nishikori squandered two break points in game two but he got it in game four when Matthias netted a forehand.
That proved to be the deciding point of the set as they served well in the remaining games, with Nishikori closing the set with a hold at love in game nine. The second set started with two good holds but the returners took charge after that, scoring three breaks in a row and two coming from Nishikori who moved 3-2 up after a forehand winner in game five.
He cemented the break with four winners in the following game but Bachinger broke back at love in game eight after a forehand return winner to get back on the positive side of the scoreboard, saving a break point in game 11 to secure a tie break where he couldn't follow Kei's pace.
The Japanese gained a 4-1 lead with two mini-breaks and he got another one in the eight point with a backhand winner, clinching the win in the 10th point to set the second round clash against Mischa Zverev or Karen Khachanov.
First round results: