MONACO: Austria’s Dominic Thiem celebrates after winning his tennis match against Russia’s Andrey Rublev during the Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament, yesterday in Monaco. — AFP

MONTE CARLO: Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem saved a match point in a gripping Monte Carlo Masters second-round win over Russian youngster Andrey Rublev yesterday. The two-time French Open semi-finalist recovered from a set down to book a last-16 clash against either Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Thiem is playing in his first tournament since suffering an ankle injury at Indian Wells last month. Rublev spurned a match point on his own serve late in the deciding set as he fired a forehand narrowly wide. "I had to fight from the first to the last point, which of course I did well. But I was also lucky at the end when he had a match point and missed a forehand by 10 centimetres or so," said Thiem.

"I was 10 centimetres from being out of the tournament." The 24-year-old Thiem could also have to face defending champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals if he can get past Djokovic or the in-form Coric on Thursday.

"It's a horrible draw for sure, from the first round on," conceded Thiem. "But I'm happy that I played two hours and forty (minutes)... But I'm looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV and then playing the winner on Thursday."

After Rublev had edged a tight first set, Thiem clinched the second on his fourth set point before racing into a 4-1 lead in the decider. His 20-year-old opponent cut loose, though, claiming four straight games to serve for the match.

But Rublev struck wide on match point and ran out of steam, double faulting to hand Thiem a place in round three as the world number seven won the last three games on the spin.


French number one Lucas Pouille blew a one-set lead to be dumped out by German serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev in a third-set tie-break. Seventh seed Pouille eased through the first set, but Zverev hit back to claim a 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) victory and reach the third round for the first time in his career.

The world number 55 was happy to play baseline rallies with his opponent, saving the serve-and-volleys for the crucial points. The left-hander trailed 4-2 in the decider, but broke back immediately before clinching the tie-break when a Pouille return dropped into the base of the net.

"I'm really excited to have won two matches here in Monte Carlo, it's an incredible feeling," said the 30-year-old Zverev. Fernando Verdasco saved three match points to beat Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in a first-round match, while his fellow Spanish veteran left-hander edged out Benoit Paire. - AFP