Dominic Thiem attempts to keep Austria’s ATP Cup campaign alive when they come up against Argentina in Sydney on Monday night.
Austria vs Argentina ATP Cup tennis is live from Sydney at 5.30pm local time on Monday (6.30am GMT).
Austria didn’t get off to the start they wanted in the ATP Cup, suffering a 3-0 whitewash defeat to Croatia – can World No. 5 Thiem guide them to victory in a crucial showdown with Argentina on Monday? The South American nation are confident after beating Poland 2-1, with World No. 25 Guido Pella continuing to impress after a career-best 2019 season.
Argentina ?? def. Poland ?? 2-1
Pella def. Majchrzak 6-2 2-6 6-2
Hurkacz def. Schwartzman 4-6 6-2 6-3
Gonzalez/Molteni def. Hurkacz/Kubot
Croatia ?? def. Austria ?? 3-0
Cilic def. Novak 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4
Coric def. Thiem 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3
Mektic/Dodig def. Marach/Melzer
AUSTRIA ??: 1. Dominic Thiem 2. Dennis Novak 3. Sebastian Ofner 4. Oliver Marach 5. Jurgen Melzer. Captain: Thomas Muster.
ARGENTINA ??: 1. Diego Schwartzman 2. Guido Pella 3. Juan Ignacio Londero 4. Maximo Gonzalez 5. Andres Molteni. Captain: Gaston Gaudio.
Rubber 1: Dennis Novak (??) vs Guido Pella (??), live from Sydney at 5.30pm local time (6.30pm GMT)
After breaking into the top 20 for the first time last season, Pella picked up from where he left off in his first match of 2020, outlasting the talented Kamil Majchrzak in brutal conditions in Sydney to help Argentina begin their ATP Cup campaign with a win.
In temperatures close to 47C out in Homebush, Pella bounced back from a second-set lapse to prevail 6-2 2-6 6-2 – much to the delight of the large Argentinian contingent inside Ken Rosewall Arena.
“I didn’t know that Sydney has so many Argentines, so it was a big shock for me,” Pella said. “It was almost full, the stadium. They were cheering for me, so it was a very nice atmosphere for the first tournament of the year.”
Pella earned 36 wins last season – the most of his career – and reached his best ranking of No. 20, winning his maiden ATP title in Sao Paolo (snapping a four-final losing streak), while he also made his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, defeating former finalists Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic.
Furthermore, the 29-year-old made his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in Monte-Carlo, finished runner-up in Cordoba and made more semi-finals in Buenos Aires and Los Cabos. Can Pella continue to improve in 2020?
He comes up against someone who is still trying to break into the top 100 for the first time. Novak, who reached his career-high ranking of No. 104 last year after winning his first Challenger title in Taipei, put in a great effort against former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in his opening match of the season, but after winning the first set in a tiebreak he couldn’t go on with the job, failing to break the Croatian all match as he went down in three.
Novak showed enough in that match to suggest he can establish himself in the top 100, but as is the case with so many players around this area of the rankings, it all comes down to producing that sort of tennis week in and week out. Novak’s best career moment to date came in 2018 when he qualified for Wimbledon and made it to the third round, beating Lucas Pouille along the way.
Pella and Novak have never played before, but the Argentine comes into this clash as the strong favourite. Novak was impressive against Cilic, but he couldn’t get into return games and he’s always struggled with his consistency throughout matches. Pella is as tough as they come, and cheered on by the raucous Argentine crowd, I expect him to be too strong.
Rubber 2: Dominic Thiem (??) vs Diego Schwartzman (??), live from Sydney around 7.00pm local time (8.00am GMT)
Friendship will be put to the side for both of these players as Thiem and Schwartzman clash for the eighth time in their careers in the second singles rubber on Monday.
Thiem will be determined to make amends for his upset loss to Borna Coric in Austria’s opening ATP Cup tie against Croatia on Saturday night. The World No. 5 has been in Australia since before Christmas, but he was slow out of the blocks and didn’t have a good serving night, misfiring with eight double faults and winning just 35 per cent of points behind is second delivery. Thiem ultimately couldn’t hold on with those numbers and went down in three.
Even though Thiem has never really started seasons with his best form, it was still a surprise, especially after the Austrian made huge strides on hardcourt in 2019, winning his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells, along with picking up 500-level crowns in Vienna and Beijing and finishing runner-up at the Nitto ATP Finals in London to end the season.
Thiem had a quiet Australian summer last year as he battled illness and he will be determined to put together a strong month this time around as a result, starting with attempting to keep Austria in the ATP Cup on Monday.
However, he will have to be near his best to overcome Schwartzman, who is always one of the toughest competitors on tour. The Argentine struggled in the heat as he went down to Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in his opening match, but cooler conditions are expected on Monday, and with a day rest, he should be fit and raring to go.
Schwartzman hit his career-high ranking of No. 11 in 2018 as he won the 500-level title in Rio de Janeiro and made the French Open quarter-finals – and he came close to returning to that mark in 2019, finishing the year at No. 14 in the world after earning a career-high 40 wins for the season, highlighted by claiming his third ATP title in Los Cabos, a runner-up finish in Buenos Aires and making the semi-finals of the Rome Masters.
The Argentine has beaten Thiem twice, including last year in the Buenos Aires semi-finals (7-6 in the third), but the Austrian has won their last two meetings and leads the head-to-head 5-2 overall. From what we saw in their opening matches, I give Schwartzman a strong chance in this one. The Argentine has arguably the best return of serve in the world, and if Thiem continues to struggle on his own ball, Schwartzman will make him pay.
Rubber 3: Doubles, live from Sydney around 9.00pm local time (10.00am GMT)
Teams to be confirmed
Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni ultimately won the tie for Argentina over Poland as they teamed up to win in straight sets over Kubot and Hurkacz and will surely be retained for doubles in this encounter, while Thomas Muster will be hoping veterans Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer can bounce back from their loss to Croatia on Saturday.