Top-ranked Austrian tennis player Dominic Thiem admitted he was caught off guard by the early aggression of John Isner. Thiem, ranked at No. 4 in the world, needed three sets to beat Isner 3-6 6-4 6-4 and progress into the Madrid Masters semifinal.
Isner broke Thiem in the second game of the match and then held on to his serve to win the opener. Thiem claimed his first break of the match in the sixth game and then held on to his serve to force a decider. In the third set, Thiem broke Isner in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead, before serving out for the match in the following game.
"I think we all know that he is one of the best servers in history and the altitude here in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve," said Thiem, per the ATP website. "I was a little bit surprised by his return games.
I think he actually attacked both of my serves, the first and the second, and it took me a while to get used to it. If you start a break down against guys like John, it is like starting a set down. I think the momentum of the whole match changed when I saved those four break points in the second [set]."
Thiem broke Isner after set and a half
Isner was easily winning his service games in the first set and Thiem needed to find a way to break the American. "John's serve is so tough to return and I had to find a good returning position," said Thiem.
"Luckily, there is a lot of space here in Madrid. I used all of that and the break in the third [set] came at the right time." Also in Madrid, Thiem spoke about the sacrifices he made to make it in tennis. "Well, I think everybody who is a professional athlete has to sacrifice a lot.
For me especially the years from 13 to 17, 18, they were pretty tough. I mean, there was only school, practice, homework, sleep, and that's like all year long. There was nothing else at all. That was pretty tough years," Thiem said.
"Also when you're younger, when you're teenager, you don't think so much about it. That's why I also didn't really miss it. Well, I don't know how everything would be if I would have done it differently."