Dominic Thiem handed rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal a boost with his Australian Open exit and then admitted he had a "really bad day" as he
Dominic Thiem handed rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal a boost with his Australian Open exit and then admitted he had a “really bad day” as he dropped all three sets to Grigor Dimitrov and suffered a bagel in the third, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to fail to make the second week of the tournament.
The Austrian world No 3 had displayed his threat just twodays earlier with a thrilling third-round victory over Aussie Nick Kyrgios on Friday, coming from two sets down to win.
But the 27-year-old, who won his first Grand Slam at the US Open last year, was well off the pace against Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, who is still seeking his first career triumph at a major.
Dimitrov now faces Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, who shocked Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, in the quarter-finals knowing he could take on Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev in the semis.
While Thiem said, after his out-of-sorts showing improved Djokovic and Nadal’s chances of a Melbourne triumph: “I think [it was] a combination of some things, some little physical issues, plus a real bad day, plus the fact that, well, he’s a great player.
“So a combination of those three things, and a result like that can happen.
“I don’t want to go closer to them [the physical issues]. I don’t want to find any excuses. But the thing also is that I’m also not a machine.
“I mean, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days. As soon as you’re not a hundred perc ent there on the court on this level, then results like this come up, and that’s exactly what happened today.”
Thiem played down suggestions his exhaustive encounter with Kyrgios might have taken it all out of him before facing Dimitrov.
“I mean, it was a special match two nights ago, and of course I woke up maybe a little bit different than on a normal match, especially with all the energy from the crowd. But from that side, it didn’t really affect me today,” he continued.
“It’s a really bad day today, bad match for my side. But the high from the US Open is long gone. It was great for some days, but the tennis world goes on so fast.
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“I think for everybody and also for myself, on court it was forgotten already at the French Open and doesn’t really affect me anymore, especially now that it’s four or five months gone.”
Thiem now hopes that Dimitrov, an Australian Open semi-finalist in 2017, can finally enjoy his big breakthrough at a Slam.
The 29-year-old was world No 3 four years ago and has long been highly rated but the now No 19 has never got past the final four in a major.
“I think since probably 10 years or a little bit less, he’s one of the best players on tour,” Thiem said of Dimitrov.
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“If he’s on, he’s super tough to play, especially in faster conditions than now, and I really wish him that he can make a great breakthrough at a Grand Slam.
“He would definitely deserve it. As I said, I was not on a hundred per cent today, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Grigor or anybody else, they are just everybody way too good that I beat them if I’m not 100 per cent.”
Reigning champion Djokovic takes on Canadian Milos Raonic although it remains to be seen how fit the world No 1 is after a side injury in his previous match.
Djokovic skipped practice on Saturday and underwent scans on his problem, which saw him take a lengthy timeout in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz.
Nadal, meanwhile, returns to action on Monday with his fourth-round showdown with Italian Fabio Fognini (not before 4am UK time).
Heading into week two of the Slam, the likes of Tsitsipas and Medvedev will harbour hopes of a first career Slam given Djokovic’s fitness issues and Nadal’s problems.
The Spaniard admitted after beating Cameron Norrie in the last round: “Break points I didn’t convert them. I combined some very good games with a couple of unforced errors that I need to fix.
“And when you are playing against the best players in the world, it is normal you are going to suffer a little bit. But it is normal. First matches in a long time.
“I have had now three matches which I hope will help me for what is coming. I am happy now but of course I need to keep improving. I am in the second week – that is the main thing for me now.”
Speaking on Eurosport, three-time Australian Open winner Mats Wilander said: “He’s [Thiem’s] had two matches, both polar opposite to each other. He plays Nick Kyrgios in a full stadium.
“Nick is creating everything and Dominic didn’t really have to do too much except stay there and play well.
“Today, big court, nobody is watching and Grigor Dimitrov is very good defensively, he keeps the ball in play and he’s got that ability to make big shots. So it was a shock, but I can understand it.”
While former British No 1 Tim Henman added: “I think, when you look at the match, Thiem had his opportunities, he was up 3-1 in both sets.
“If he gets the moment in early, maybe he can get on top. I think Dimitrov did very well to hang in and he got back on level terms and took his opportunities. It’s a huge upset for Dimitrov.”