Dominic Thiem feels empty after Australian final

AP Photo

MELBOURNE, Australia — Emptiness. Exhaustion. All-too-familiar feelings for Dominic Thiem after a Grand Slam final.

He has lost three on the biggest stage at the majors, adding a five-set loss to Novak Djokovic on the hard courts at Melbourne Park on Sunday to his two against Rafael Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros.

Each time he’s come up against the greatest-of-all-time at that particular venue.

He had to beat top-seeded Nadal in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, then a fellow up-and-comer, Alexander Zverev, in the semifinals.

Just to get a shot at Djokovic, who had won all seven previous times he’d reached the Australian final, Thiem had spent almost 18 1/2 hours on court and beaten four seeded players through six rounds. Djokovic had spent almost six fewer hours in action, and had only dropped one set in the tournament.

“I’ve rarely felt physically (so) tired, especially now after all the tension’s gone,” Thiem said after losing 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.

After recovering a break in the first set, Thiem surrendered it with a double-fault – his first. He rebounded and, from 4-4 in the second, won six straight games and took the next two sets, with his hard, flat ground strokes troubling Djokovic.

And then, after being one set from a breakthrough major title, the 26-year-old Austrian had to accept being runner-up again after a four-hour final. Even Djokovic admitted just one or two shots made the difference.

“I just feel a lot of emptiness right now. But, yeah, that’s it. I know the feeling,” Thiem said. “I did after the last two in Paris. But, yeah, also already now I feel little bit of motivation to come back for the next Grand Slam.”

That’ll be in Paris, in May.

He reckons it’s just the fine details he needs to work on, and a bit of reshaping after honing his game specifically for the hard surface.

What made him most proud of his run in Australia, he said, was “the way I kept my level, the way I kept my tension over all the two weeks.

“I didn’t have easy matches, especially from the quarters on. Beating Rafa in over four hours, then two days later going back out again against Sascha. Unbelievably intense, close match. Then two days later going out again against Novak, who won the most titles here and again played on a very high level.”

That gives him a brighter picture for the future.

“I’m very aware and sure now that I can play on a very high level for a full Grand Slam,” Thiem said. “Didn’t have any drops – it makes me very confident for the next big tournaments which are coming up.”

Djokovic is among the experts who predict big things for Thiem.

“Congratulations to Dominic for an amazing tournament. It wasn’t meant to be tonight,” Djokovic said as he accepted the trophy. “It was a tough match. You were very close to winning it. You definitely have a lot more time in your career and I’m sure you’ll get one of the Grand Slam trophies … More than one.”

Thiem would like that to be sooner than later, obviously, and certainly while Roger Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are still contenders.

“I really hope also that I win my maiden Slam when they’re still around,” he said, “because it just counts more, yeah.”

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.