Dominic Thiem feels empty after Australian final

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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.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.