Dominic Thiem is first into the Madrid Masters final after beating Kevin Anderson

Hannah Wilks in ATP 12 May 2018
  • Dominic Thiem defeated Kevin Anderson to make the 2018 Madrid Masters final
  • Thiem backed up his win over Rafael Nadal with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Anderson
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify) 
Dominic Thiem (JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)

Dominic Thiem backed up his win over Rafael Nadal with a solid semifinal victory over Kevin Anderson to reach the Madrid Masters final for the second year running.

Watch and bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

Thiem awaits either Alexander Zverev or Denis Shapovalov in Sunday’s Madrid Masters final.

Runner-up to Nadal in 2017, Thiem came into the Madrid Masters – the first of back-to-back clay-court Masters 1000 Series events played in the run-up to the French Open – on poor form, having got just two games against Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and been shocked by Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals in Barcelona. 
The Austrian was dragged to three sets by Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in the second round, and his third-round opponent Borna Coric served for the match against him. 

But Thiem lifted his level dramatically on Friday to end Nadal’s 21-match winning streak on clay, handing the ten-time French Open champion his first defeat on crushed brick since Nadal lost to the selfsame opponent in Rome almost a year ago. (Nadal and Thiem have been drawn in the same quarter at next week's Rome Masters, meaning they could meet as early as the quarterfinals.)

It was a titanic performance from Thiem to defeat the five-time champion, and it made him the favourite to win the tournament. But his semifinal against Kevin Anderson looked like a potential pitfall nonetheless. The experienced Anderson, runner-up at the US Open in 2017, has been playing some of the best tennis of his career at the relatively advanced age of 32. Moreover, the South African had won all six of his previous meetings with Thiem – the last two since Thiem became a top-10 player.

They had never met on clay, however, and at the risk of over-simplifying matters, that proved to make all the difference in Saturday’s Madrid Masters semifinal. 

Despite the booming serve that is the bedrock of Anderson’s game, the big man was under pressure from the very beginning when he stepped up to the line. Thiem put together a battering series of forehands from the baseline to set up break point and although Anderson saved it with an ace, the South African was right back in trouble again as Thiem broke to open the match. 

Anderson found himself break point down again at 1-3, a point which would have seen Thiem go up a double break, but against the run of play – which predominantly saw Thiem triumphing in longer rallies – a marathon exchange was won by the South African, who not only held his own against Thiem from the back of the court but managed to work his way into net and end the rally with a drop volley winner. Anderson would go on to hold to keep the deficit to one break and when he climbed to 0-40 on Thiem’s serve as the Austrian tried to close out the set, it seemed that effort would be rewarded.

But Thiem managed to stave off all the break points despite finding zero first serves on the first seven points of the game, and went on to close out the first set with a forehand winner. He broke early in the second set when Anderson double-faulted and never looked like surrendering the lead, eventually closing out a 6-4, 6-2 win in 85 minutes.

[Beating Nadal] gave me a huge boost of confidence,' Thiem said. 'That's for sure. But at the same time, it was a completely different matchup today. There was also the fact that I never beat him. It was 0-6 before today. Some things were a little bit shaky.

'I was keeping my level up from yesterday, so that was a great thing. The way I started was also well. Even though I played really different, I was returning very far back today.
Yeah, almost everything worked out. To beat him 4 and 2, it's a very good result.'

Thiem, who is now 37-8 on clay over the past two seasons, is into his second Masters 1000 Series final after falling short 12 months ago in Madrid – and unlike his 2017 defeat to Nadal, he would be favoured against either of the men he might face, with a 4-1 head-to-head against Alexander Zverev and a 1-0 record against Denis Shapovalov (as well as a substantial advantage when it comes to experience and clay-court expertise). 

'The thing is that my opponent tomorrow in the final is going to deserve it the same way like me,' Thiem said of facing Zverev or Shapovalov. 'It's not really a difference. Of course, I will try everything. A Masters 1000 title would mean a lot to me because it's obviously really tough to win one.

'To be honest, I thought also myself that I was pretty far away before this week started. Now I'm in the final again, which is amazing for me. Would be definitely nice if I win the title than if I lose tomorrow.'

Most significantly, perhaps, Thiem has found his game just in time for the French Open, which is now less than three weeks away. The two-time semifinalist looks like a credible threat again – albeit a distant one – to Rafael Nadal’s domination at Roland Garros. 

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Dominic Thiem is first into the Madrid Masters final after beating Kevin Anderson

Austria’s Dominic Thiem made his second straight Madrid Masters final, backing up his victory over Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kevin Anderson

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