"I was preparing for Nishikori, when suddenly I was told that I was going to play Vitaliy" - Thiem on overcoming surprise opponent in tricky opening round match in Vienna
Initially drawn to face Japan's Kei Nishikori, Thiem was forced to battle lucky loser Vitaliy Sachko as Nishikori withdrew at the last minute due to injury. Having never faced or seen the World No. 529 in action, Thiem was able to overcome the tricky Ukrainian 6-4 7-5 to advance to the second round.
“The match was not easy at all. I heard pretty late last night that I was not going to play Kei and that I was going to play Vitaliy,” said Thiem after the match. “Of course, the past days I was practicing towards Kei, preparing for Kei. I know him, we already had five matches. Suddenly, I was playing against an opponent who already had two good matches in qualifying, who maybe I only saw for two minutes on TV.”
The hometown hero was forced to adapt his game against Sachko, who was making his main draw tour-level debut. Furthermore, the reigning US Open champion was spurred on by an energetic crowd, who remained vocal despite the pandemic-induced restrictions.
“I wanted to present myself well in front of the home crowd and to find the right match intensity,” Thiem added. “The high match intensity was not easy and he was playing well, especially from the moment I was 5-1 up in the first set. From that moment on, I thought it was a pretty close and decent match. I am very happy with how I closed it out and how I found a pretty good intensity towards the end of the match.”
The defending champion will face Christian Garin in the next round, as the Chilean defeated three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-4 6-7(9) 6-3 in a marathon opening round match. Garin improves to 18-11 this season, but has never faced Thiem on the ATP Tour.