Thiem's star keeps rising as Ruud falls victim

 - Dan Imhoff

US Open champion shows no signs of slowing down in straight-sets routing of in-form Norwegian

Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros 2020, third round© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Dominic Thiem is never the type to give credence to hype surrounding him, least not before time.

Quietly confident and carefully spoken, the Austrian has always insisted first and foremost his record should speak for itself.

It spoke loud and clear last month when he landed that breakout major trophy at Flushing Meadows.

Fitting then the 27-year-old would share an image from Roland-Garros this week to reveal his “first star” on his racquet bag.

After a steady ascent, it was a subtle star meticulously earned, the first he hoped of many.

“As a special lucky charm I have a special symbol on my racquet bag: my racquet company Babolat printed my name, the Austrian flag and a 2020 star on my bag,” he wrote. “This star stands for my victory in New York – basically the hallmark for my first major trophy. There is no discussion, I am really proud of it.”

On Friday, the No.3 seed’s lucky charm carried him to a third successive straight-sets victory at Roland-Garros – 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 over Casper Ruud – a third straight warning he was not too heavily burdened with this added pressure.

Ruud, the 25th seed, is a student of the Rafael Nadal Academy so it comes as no surprise he is most at home on the red dirt.

The 21-year-old owns more wins on the surface – albeit in a reduced season – than any other player in 2020. To beat Thiem, though, in the Norwegian’s first outing on Court Philippe-Chatrier proved a bridge too far on this occasion.

“It’s a long match when you're playing a [best of] five-setter on clay. So even though you're up 3-1 in the first doesn't mean that it will go your way,” Ruud said. “And I got that, not going to say lesson, but I got that reminder today.

“He played some clutch shots on the clutch points and he shows how good of a clay-court player he is and fighter he is.”

The Austrian was dealt arguably the toughest draw of any of the big contenders coming into a later than usual staging of Roland-Garros.

He handled fellow US Open champion, Marin Cilic, comfortably in his first test since that New York triumph only two weeks ago, then saw off a resurgent former world No.8 Jack Sock in the second round.

Thiem had said it was vital he came through in straight sets against Sock, such was the recognition of the road ahead if he was to push deep again at the major at which he had reached the semi-finals or better for the past four years.

He delivered on that and again against the young Norwegian.

Former champion, the in-form Stan Wawrinka, looms as a possible fourth-round assignment. Some welcome to the second week that would be.

“Basically I feel fine. Of course I start to feel all the last weeks physically, also emotionally,” Thiem said. “I really love this tournament, and I would love to go deep to play well.

“I do everything to get a good recovery. Today I had an early match. That is good, so I think I'm going to have more than 48 hours to rest.

“So try to put [an] easy but good practice in tomorrow and two good treatments with my physio. Good food, good sleep. Then put everything I have into the match on Sunday.”

No one suggested adding that second star in Paris only four weeks later was going to be easy.