Former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem and American Sebastian Korda meet for the first time on Tour to play a breathtaking semifinal match at the European Open in Antwerp on Saturday.
The stakes were high on Saturday in Antwerp when Thiem and Korda met for the first time on Tour level. Both were aiming to punch their ticket into the ATP 250 final, but there was more to the story.
For the first time since the Nitto ATP Finals in 2020, a place in a championship match was at stake for the Austrian, who spent nine months sidelined from Tour due to a wrist injury.
Meanwhile, the 22-year-old player was seeking to reach his second consecutive final; last week, he finished a runner-up in Gijon, losing to eventual champion Andrey Rublev at the ATP 250 event.
In his on-court interview, the Florida native outlined: “I am very happy. It was a great battle between both of us.
“I think every single game in the first set, we were 30/30 and couldn’t get through the barrier. I think the second set was key. A lot of breaks in that set, but I just stayed calm and confident.
“You can never really prepare for a final-set tiebreak, but I am pleased with how I stayed calm and confident.”
The Match as It Unfolded
The two players balanced each other throughout a tight first set. Korda found the edge on his strong serve and forehand while Thiem, unplayable at times, made good use of his trademark backhand.
Moreover, the latter excelled at the net, meticulously finding room for the clever passing shots he managed to produce.
The matchup saw them exchanging high-quality points, nearly perfect ball striking from each side of the net, which left no room for breakpoints throughout a 54-minute opener, which unfolded into a first-set tiebreak.
Petr Korda’s son and pupil ran out to 4-2, but the World No. 132 persevered to step up 6-4, taking a 7-6(4) win after one hour and four minutes.
Both won 81 percent of his first serve point though the former U.S. Open champion was more effective with his second serve.
The American stormed to produce an early break in the second set, earning a 1-0 lead. He seemed to continue to carry the momentum, but Thiem reacted quickly, breaking back to set things even.
However, the 29-year-old, unable to hold his serve, having dropped his level and focus, gave breathing room for his adversary to break him twice, moving on to open a 3-1 advantage.
Holding his nerve, the young American player found the space he needed to build a 5-3 lead, surging next to a 6-3 second-set victory, converting his third break of the set, forcing a decider.
The numbers resume the story, Korda winning 62 percent of the first serve points while Thiem won just 33 percent on his.
In the final set, the young star went through his opponent’s serve to take a 2-1 lead.
For his part, the 17-time ATP titlist, who played his quarterfinal clash against top seed Hubert Hurkacz on Friday, displaying a fantastic performance to clinch a three-set triumph after nearly three hours, showed some signs of fatigue.
Regardless, he upgraded his game in the third set to levels close to the ones seen in the opener.
Keeping his chances alive, Thiem fought back to break his rival in a crucial moment to step up 4-3, making the most of his opportunities, but Korda wasted no time in striking back to set the encounter 4-4 and coming back from a break down, he set the match around.
In the tiebreak, he took the initiative and went the distance to grab a 6-4 win, reaching his second semifinal in a row.
Overall, he won 72 percent of his first-serve points, converting four of five breakpoint opportunities, hitting 49 winners (11 aces) while committing three double faults.
If he prevails in the final on Sunday, he will lift his second career title at tour level in Antwerp.