MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Dominic Thiem was dragged into a fulminant five-set battle by Alex Bolt, a former trencher, on Thursday, but disappointed a vocal partisan crowd by beating a 6-2 5-7 6-7 (5) 6 -1 6- spawned. 2 winners to reach the third round of the Australian Open.
The Austrian Dominic Thiem celebrates the victory against the Australian Alex Bolt. REUTERS / Hannah McKay
The fifth seeded Austrian controlled the game deep into the second set before the Australian wildcard bolt, who had kicked Gilles Simon out of the tournament at the same stage last year, suddenly entered and took control.
In an unbranded T-shirt and crumpled canary-yellow shorts, Bolt looked like he'd come from one of the South Australian workplaces where he had worked as a worker before returning to tennis in 2016.
Roared by the crowd, number 140 of the left-handed world in the Melbourne Arena trudged towards winners from everywhere, including around the net post, and put enormous pressure on Thiem.
Thiem was confused by giving up the second set due to two casual mistakes, and the Australian won the third set after a tie before beating out a hilarious cheer.
“He really raised his level. The crowd set out. Suddenly it was a very tight third sentence that was not allowed to happen … I freaked out, "said Thiem.
However, Thiem found his way around and began to use shots to pick the tiring Australian out of a playbook he had learned from his parents as a tennis coach since childhood.
Half an hour later, the 26-year-old was still flawless in his white and purple jersey and trotted to victory in the last two sets without a single breakpoint.
"He had a five in the first round and doubled yesterday," said Thiem, who will be up against Kevin Anderson or Taylor Fritz next.
"I knew he probably couldn't really keep up that level, so I was just trying to stay in the game and it paid off."
The same day that Bolt defeated Simon last year, Thiem left Melbourne Park early after retiring against Alexei Popyrin.
Despite the early setback, the Austrian had an outstanding season and pushed Novak Djokovic for the second time to reach the final of the French Open. He won great titles on the hard courts of Indian Wells and Beijing.
He's probably a bit old to fit the "Young Gun" category and break the three-year stranglehold of Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the Grand Slam titles.
However, Djokovic has identified him as one of the pursuers to watch, and with a long but not overly strenuous test, Thiem looks good to start the second week at Melbourne Park.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Alison Williams