If Dominic Thiem wants to win his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, he’ll need to defeat one of the few men outside of the Big Four to win a major championship in the past decade. The second seed takes on No. 31 seed and 2014 champion Marin Cilic in third-round action on Saturday, part of a busy schedule of play that includes third seed Daniil Medvedev and sixth seed Matteo Berrettini.
Thiem holds a perfect 2-0 record against Cilic in their ATP Head2Head series, with both wins coming on hard courts. But the 32-year-old Croatian’s high-velocity game is still capable of taking out big names. Cilic defeated Roberto Bautista Agut at this year’s Australian Open for his first win against a player inside the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings since 2018. The courts playing faster than normal this year in New York will also work in Cilic’s favour.
“Not from the players, but from an outside perspective, he’s underrated because he achieved almost everything that you can achieve as a tennis player: Grand Slam champion, [ATP] Masters 1000 champion, played two other Grand Slam finals. Definitely one of the best players of the past decade [and] a true champion,” Thiem said. “He’s always dangerous for a big and deep run in these big tournaments. He’s not a guy I want to face in the third round because he’s a former champion. He can beat anybody on a good day.”
Thiem put his opening-round defeat at last week’s Western & Southern Open in the rearview mirror and showed the level of tennis this week that fans have come to expect. He moved through his first two matches without dropping a set and broke serve seven times in a convincing second-round win against Sumit Nagal.
Medvedev looks to continue his impressive form against American wild card J.J. Wolf. Last year’s runner-up (l. to Nadal) hasn’t dropped serve in his first two rounds and displayed a greater willingness to finish points at the net. The 21-year-old Wolf, No. 138 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, hadn’t won a tour-level match before this week and will enjoy his first taste of competing on a show court at a Grand Slam.
“I saw him playing qualies two years ago [at the Western & Southern Open] and he lost a tough match against somebody quite strong. I was surprised because he was ranked 800 at this moment. Now he’s close to the Top 100 and playing great tennis,” Medvedev said. “I’ll be expecting a great match and will try to do my best. To play an American in the USA, without a crowd, is an advantage.”
Medvedev: ‘My Goal Is To Win Seven Matches’
Berrettini, who reached his first Grand Slam semi-final last year in New York, aims to continue his success at this event against No. 30 seed Casper Ruud. The Italian worked hard on his fitness during the off-season and appears to have lost weight since January, but it hasn’t impacted his power. Berrettini fired 35 aces across his first two matches and hasn’t dropped serve, while his around-the-net winner in his second-round win against Ugo Humbert remains the shot of the tournament so far.
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Ruud captured his first ATP Tour title this February on the red clay of Buenos Aires and continued to work diligently to excel on faster surfaces. He scored his first Top 20 victories against John Isner and Fabio Fognini at the ATP Cup and has now matched his best result at a Grand Slam.
Eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut takes on in-form Vasek Pospisil in an intriguing clash. Bautista Agut leads their ATP Head2Head series 3-0, but they haven’t met in five years. The Spaniard reached the semi-finals last week at the Western & Southern Open and served for the match against Novak Djokovic. Pospisil took out fellow Canadian Milos Raonic on Thursday and scored a pair of Top 10 wins in February against Medvedev and David Goffin, punching well above his current ranking of No. 94.
Two matchups featuring talented young stars in the sport also highlight Day 6. Karen Khachanov, the No. 11 seed, takes on No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur in a battle pitting power against foot speed. Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 15 seed, looks to build on his dominant win over Andy Murray when he meets Corentin Moutet. The two piano aficionados have known each other since childhood and played their first match when Auger-Aliassime was nine years old.
Rounding out Saturday’s schedule is No. 10 seed Andrey Rublev, who started the year with back-to-back titles in Doha (d. Moutet) and Adelaide (d. Harris), squaring off with Salvatore Caruso. Frances Tiafoe looks to continue his run on home soil against Marton Fucsovics.