World No. 4 Dominic Thiem clashed Aslan Karatsev for the first time at the ATP level on Wednesday but afterward insisted the Russian wasn’t a stranger to him.
Thiem, seeded at No. 1, recovered from a set down to beat Australian Open semifinalist Karatsev 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-2 and make the Doha quarterfinal.
“We played in juniors 10 or 11 years ago, and we also practised in Vienna, so he wasn’t completely new to me,” Thiem revealed after beating Karatsev, per the ATP website. “But he has raised his level so much in the past six months, especially last month in Australia.
Thiem was up 5-2 in the first-set tie-break before Karatsev won five points in a row to overturn the deficit and win the opener.
After losing a tight first set, Thiem broke Karatsev in the opening game of the second set and then held on to his serve to force a decider.
In the third set, Thiem broke Karatsev twice to complete a comeback.
“I was up in the tie-break and then I lost it, which was not nice, but he helped me a little bit in that first game [of the second set], Thiem adddd. “I think he hit two double faults. After you lose a close set, it’s super important to have a good start in the next one. And that’s what I had. It was pretty fast, 3-0, and so I was positive again in my mind. I also loosened up a little bit and started to play better.”
Thiem happy to see Roger Federer back on the Tour
Federer, a record 20-time Grand Slam champion, underwent two knee surgeries last year and he kicked off his 2021 season on Wednesday in Doha.
“I think every tennis player, also me who is kind of a rival of his – I’m also a fan of him. I love to watch him play, love also to learn from him and probably I’ll see a set or more live tonight because I’m excited about it,” Thiem said, per George Bellshaw.