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Thiem, Bedene Change Sports In Doha

They changed sports and surfaces, switching from a football pitch to a tennis court. But on Wednesday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, the outcome was the same when Dominic Thiem and Aljaz Bedene faced off in the second round in Doha.

As Thiem's football team did during the off-season, the Austrian outplayed the Slovenian, advancing to the quarter-finals of his first tournament of the 2018 season, 7-5, 6-4.

Dominic Thiem saves two of three break points against Aljaz Bedene on Wednesday in Doha to reach the quarter-finals.
Thiem had plenty of opportunities in the early-evening match, earning 15 break points, including 10 in the second set, against Bedene, who now plays for Slovenia after switching from Great Britain last month. But Thiem converted only three of those break-point opportunities.

Still, he was pleased to improve to 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. “I'm pleased today. I'm through in straight sets. It was a tough match, but I expected it... So I think that's a perfect start into the new year,” Thiem said.

“If you have to fight a lot, if you have to suffer a bit, I think it's very good like this. You get a lot of tough situations already in the first matches, and that's why I'm happy with the start.”

Thiem will next face #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who hit fifth seed Richard Gasquet off the court, blasting 33 winners, including 16 from his forehand, to advance 6-3, 6-4. The 19-year-old Greek is now into his second ATP World Tour quarter-final (also 2017 Antwerp semi-finals).

“It's inspiring. I've been watching him since I was 8, 10 years old on TV. I couldn't imagine that I would play him one day, and today I was standing on the opposite side of the net and facing him, and playing with my heart out there, giving my best,” Tsitsipas said.

The teenager will now go for his first Top 5 win against Thiem. “I will try to do the same that I did today. Pretty much the same plan, tactic – stay aggressive. That's very important, and to have a clear mindset,” Tsitsipas said.

In 2017, #NextGenATP Andrey Rublev didn't reach a quarter-final until June, at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle. But three days into the new year, the Russian has already advanced to his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of 2018.

Rublev improved to 2-1 against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, beating the seventh seed 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. The 20-year-old Rublev saved seven of 11 break points, and will next meet Croatia's Borna Coric.

“I'm happy to take my revenge because I lost against Fernando a few months ago, which was also a tough match. Today I win the tough match, so I'm really happy. And I'm really happy to be in the quarter-finals,” Rublev said. “I think in the third set, I was quite focused. I was quite calm. I was not showing emotions. I was trying to focus on the points and the rallies.”

Coric, who knocked out second seed and World No. 10 Pablo Carreno Busta in the first round, routed Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-1, 6-3. The 21-year-old right-hander broke five times and won 54 per cent of his return points (32/59).

French wild card Gael Monfils, who has fallen to No. 46 in the ATP Rankings after an injury-riddled 2017, overcame German Jan-Lennard Struff in 81 minutes 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

“I feel happy to be back on the tour. I feel happy to have those two matches under my belt. Still, you know, I can play better. I can play better... I think it's just matter of time and confidence,” Monfils said. “I'm working hard, trying to get back to the top of the game again.”

Monfils was steady on his first serve throughout the second-round contest, winning 80 per cent of those points (32/40). Monfils will next meet German Peter Gojowczyk, who didn't face a break point in a 6-2, 6-2 sweep of Italian qualifier Matteo Berrettini.

Qualifier Mirza Basic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was more fortunate, saving all three break points against eighth seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain to advance 6-4, 7-6(2). Basic will next play Guido Pella of Argentina, who beat qualifier Stefano Travaglia of Italy 7-6(4), 6-3.


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