US Open champion Dominic Thiem booked his spot in the French Open fourth round with a hard-fought 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory over Norwegian Casper Ruud.
The Austrian, 27, faced eight break points in the opening two sets, but was only broken once by the 28th seed, in the fourth game of the first set.
Thiem converted six of his chances as he gradually took control en route to victory in two hours and 15 minutes.
The third seed will play 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka or Hugo Gaston.
“Maybe the first four games were not as good as the rest of the match by me, but he’s a really good player,” said Thiem, who lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 finals at Roland Garros.
“He has a lot of confidence and has shown he is one of the best clay-court players this year. I tried not to give him chances in the third set.”
After his three-set win over Jack Sock on Wednesday, Thiem said there would be a point at Roland Garros where he would get “super tired” – during the early stages of his match against Ruud the new Grand Slam champion was certainly breathing hard.
Thiem saved break point in his opening service game before his resistance was finally broken in the fourth game. However, the steely Austrian broke back straight away with a ferocious forehand winner.
Thiem has one of the great defenses in tennis and it was severely tested in a long sixth game, where he saved three break points. Rising star Ruud, 21, then dropped a level and was broken again as Thiem went on to take the opening set.
Ruud came to Paris in great form on clay, having reached the semi-finals in Rome and Hamburg. He went toe-to-toe with his opponent during the first two sets, and produced a ‘tweener’ lobbed winner, which brought applause from the sparse crowd under the roof inside Court Philippe Chatrier.
However, his defense was not as strong as Thiem’s and he was broken twice more in the second set before his challenge faded away in the third.
“I think that he was playing well from beginning to the end basically. I really raised my level,” said Thiem.
“I guess if we give him one more year, then he’s going to be super-dangerous.”
We should start using Hawk-Eye on clay – Ruud
Ruud’s cause was also not helped by a couple of line calls not going in his favour, particularly one early in the second set which Thiem acknowledged was a “mistake” in his favour.
The Norwegian was insistent a return from Thiem had missed the baseline, only for the umpire to decide the ball had dropped in.
Most clay-court events, including the French Open, still have umpires going down on to the court to check ball marks, rather than relying on technology which is not yet deemed accurate enough on the surface.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov was another player who fell the wrong side of a call on Thursday.
“I think definitely that we should start using Hawk-Eye for the clay-court tournaments as well because then we don’t need to have all these arguments with umpires,” said Ruud.
“And I think, quite frankly, we players are right on these mark discussions.”
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