Fabio Fognini and Dominic Thiem have lived to see another day at the 2016 U.S. Open after surviving respective five-setters in round one. Fognini will now face David Ferrer on Thursday, while Thiem is taking on Ricardas Berankis.
Fabio Fognini vs. (11) David Ferrer
One of the most lopsided head-to-head matchups in tennis will add another chapter when Ferrer and Fognini face each other in round two of the U.S. Open on Thursday. While it may not be one of the most well-documented instances of one player owning another, few men have enjoyed the kind of dominance that Ferrer has exerted over Fognini. The Spaniard has won all nine of their previous meetings, including four on hard courts–most recently via a 6-4, 6-2 beatdown last all at the indoor event in Vienna.
Fognini should understand, though, that this is not the same Ferrer of their past contests. The 34-year-old has plunged to No. 13 in the world partly because of a modest 27-17 record for the 2016 campaign. Ferrer had been 5-7 in his last 12 matches prior to this fortnight, so he will take anything he can get right now and what he got on Tuesday was a retirement at 5-6 in the opening set by Alexander Dolgopolov. Fognini, on the other hand, had to battle extremely hard for his spot in the last 64. In fact, the world No. 38 trailed Teymuraz Gabashvili by two sets and by 5-4 with Gabashvili serving for a straight-set win before storming back to prevail 6-7(9), 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5, 6-4. To go along with a third-round performance at the Rio Olympics, Fognini’s hard-court summer included disappointing losses to Jared Donaldson in Toronto and John Isner (with an alarmingly routine 6-3, 6-2 scoreline) in Cincinnati. After his win over Gabashvili on Tuesday, Fognini–who incurred a point penalty for removing a linesperson’s sunglasses–called the U.S. Open the worst of the four Grand Slams. With his mental and physical state questionable at best, the Italian will likely fall to a hopeless 0-10 against Ferrer.
(8) Dominic Thiem vs. Ricardas Berankis
By his own admission, Thiem scheduled too many tournaments and played too many matches from the start of the season through the grass-court swing. He is paying the price now, with a 3-5 record in his last eight matches–including a retirement in Toronto. The 10th-ranked Austrian’s slump has been marked by fatigue and minor injuries, and for an extended period on Tuesday night it looked like his slippery slide would continue. In what turned out to be one of the most entertaining contests of the entire first round, Thiem recovered from a two sets to one deficit and outlasted John Millman 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
Up next for the No. 8 seed on Thursday is a first-ever meeting with Berankis, who took out Malek Jaziri 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2. That had to be considered a shocking result, because Berankis had lost six matches and nine consecutive sets in a row during a slump that included a setback against none other than Jaziri (7-5, 6-4 on the grass courts of Halle). The 89th-ranked Lithuanian may not enjoy this tough draw against Thiem, but might things have been even worse against Millman? At the Rio Olympics, Berankis got humiliated 6-0, 6-0 by the Australian. Thiem will not beat him down like that, but based on Berankis’ current form it is hard to see him stringing together two straight impressive performances.
Pick: Thiem in 4