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'I'm not a machine', third seed Thiem slumps out



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Australian Open

By Nick Mulvenney

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Third seed Dominic Thiem slumped out of the Australian Open in lacklustre fashion on Sunday, complaining of undisclosed physical issues after being thrashed 6-4 6-4 6-0 in the fourth round by Grigor Dimitrov.

The U.S. Open champion, who came back from two sets down to beat Nick Kyrgios in a third round battle on Friday night, looked out of sorts from the beginning of the contest and made an uncharacteristic 41 unforced errors.

“A combination of some little physical issues, plus a real bad day, plus the fact that he’s a great player … a result like that can happen,” Thiem said.

“I’m not a machine, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days. As soon as you’re not 100% at this level, then results like this come up, and that’s exactly what happened today.”

While Thiem’s five-set match against Kyrgios had been played in a bear pit, Sunday’s match was witnessed by only a handful of officials and coaches on Rod Laver Arena as Melbourne’s coronavirus lockdown kept the fans away.

“It was a special match two nights ago, and I woke up maybe a little bit different than on a normal match, especially with all the energy from the crowd,” Thiem added.

“But … it didn’t really affect me today.”On Sunday, the first two sets followed a similar pattern with Thiem taking an early 3-1 lead only for 18th seed Dimitrov to charge back at him and clinch the set.

The Austrian was unable to rouse himself in the third set and his Australian Open ended when he flapped a forehand long after little more than two hours on court.

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“Throughout every season you have one of those matches where you keep the ball rolling,” Dimitrov said.

“He might have had a problem, I don’t know, but I also give myself some credit for staying in there. He’s an extraordinary player so I’m happy with the win.”

After securing his maiden Grand Slam crown at Flushing Meadows last year, Thiem had been widely tipped to challenge Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer for more major titles this year.

Dimitrov knows all about failing to fulfil big expectations after being dubbed “Baby Fed” early in his career for the similarity of his playing style to that of Federer.

The 29-year-old took Nadal to five sets in the 2017 semi-finals at Melbourne Park but has never played a Grand Slam final.

Dimitrov will play Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev, the world number 114, in his fourth Australian Open quarter-final later this week but was taking nothing for granted.

“If you’re there, it’s for a reason, whether it’s a fairytale or not, you’ve got to be ready. It’s going to be a battle,” Dimitrov said.

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