Dominic Thiem feeling optimistic again after Madrid boost

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MADRID — Dominic Thiem is leaving Madrid with his confidence boosted despite falling short of the final.

Thiem returned to action at the Madrid Open after taking a break to recharge ahead of the French Open later this month.

He couldn’t get past the semifinals in the Spanish capital, losing to Alexander Zverev in two sets. But it was further than Thiem had imagined reaching after a difficult start to his year.

“In general, I’m super happy with the week,” Thiem said. “I would have never expected to be in the semifinals, to play in the semifinals against a player like him. I cannot complain about anything.”

The fourth-ranked Austrian hasn’t won a tournament since breaking through with his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in September. He then lost in the early rounds in Doha and Dubai, and decided it was time to take a break.

Thiem said the coronavirus pandemic also played a part in his decision to take time off – because it was “mentally a little bit more demanding to be in a bubble, to play in front of empty seats” – but his lack of motivation played a greater role.

“The main reason was that I won the first major, that I reached basically my lifetime goal,” Thiem said. “So, of course, it’s tough to just continue like before. That was the main reason, that I just had to, well, think about it, regroup myself. That took a little bit of time.”

He said he wasn’t really sure how he would perform on his return but was pleasantly surprised with his game. He started in Madrid with a couple of straight-set wins over Marcos Giron and Alex de Minaur, then rallied to defeat John Isner in three sets to reach the semifinals.

“It was a way better result than I expected,” the 27-year-old Thiem said. “Playing-wise and physically wise I expected to be in a decent shape. But, of course, there are still many things to improve just to keep all intensity for all the week, day in, day out … But I’m very optimistic that every week I’m playing now it’s going to improve. Especially for the confidence it was important to get a great result here.”

Thiem will next play in Rome before returning to the French Open, where he was a finalist in 2018 and 2019.

“Of course, there are many things to improve for next week and then for the weeks after, as well,” he said. “Just try to get to Rome, get some good practices in there, then hopefully play even better than here in Madrid.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

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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.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”