Thiem suffers early exit: What we learned

No.4 seed Dominic Thiem lets a two-set lead slip as Pablo Andujar marked his 150th career win with a remarkable comeback

Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros 2021, first round© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Records for Dominic Thiem and Pablo Andujar were shattered on Court Philippe-Chatrier in a pulsating four-hour and 28-minute tussle.

Two-time finalist Thiem had never lost his opening round in Paris during seven previous visits.

The world No.4 was 3-0 against the Spaniard in previous meetings, and had never fallen to a player ranked as low as No.68 Andujar on the terre battue.

That all changed on Sunday.

The 35-year-old was 0-24 when two-sets-to-love down in major play, he was 0-11 against top-five talent.

Both streaks were snapped as the Spaniard reeled in the No.4 seed 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, before signing the camera with a message of love to his family watching back home. 

Here’s what we learned from this gripping five-setter…

Domi determined to 'bounce back stronger'

The US Open champion admitted that the “omens were a bit different this year” following a stop-start build up to Roland-Garros.

The 27-year-old last relinquished a two-set lead in major play back at the 2017 US Open. The defeat evidently hurt, but Thiem is adamant he’ll dig for the answers.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it's very strange to me. I have to analyse it and think about what's wrong at the moment. And then of course try to hit back as soon as possible,” reflected the Austrian, the 2018 and 2019 finalist at Roland-Garros.

“It does feel very tough, as I was used to since 2016 to play very deep in this tournament. But at the same time, the last first-round exit in a Grand Slam, US Open 2019, is not that long ago, but not here.”

Dominic Thiem, Pablo Andujar, Roland-Garros 2021© Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Thiem referred to Novak Djokovic’s turbulent spell five years ago, and will be using the world No.1 as inspiration to fire back to the peak of his powers.

“I think that Novak, on another level than me, but after winning here in 2016, I guess he also had some struggles,” mused the world No.4.

“I’m not struggling for motivation. It's amazing to reach such a big goal (winning a Grand Slam), but at the same time, something is different after. It's a big learning process, and despite the loss, which hurts so much, I still hope I can bounce back stronger than before. Right now I don't know when the moment is coming.”

Federer triumph gave Andujar the edge

20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer returned to the tour in Geneva a fortnight ago. The welcome back was short-lived however as Andujar clinched what he described as “the greatest victory of my career".

"To my eyes, he is a myth," added the Valencia resident.

 After Sunday’s incredible fight back, the Spaniard has now toppled two top-10 players in a single season for the first time in his career.

“It gave me more confidence in myself. I think that victory made me still believe, even if I was two sets to love down. So I tried to keep focused,” said an elated Andujar.

“I knew if I could win that third set, everything was going to change. I thought, I really believed, and that probably maybe in a big percentage, small percentage, I don't know how much, but of course there is a percentage of that win gave me that confidence to believe in this win.”

Pablo Andjuar, Roland-Garros 2021 first round©️ Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Thiem must step in and unleash 

In the very first game of the match Thiem clattered a trademark backhand down-the-line and arrowed it into the corner for an immediate break.

The signs were good.

However, the Austrian became increasingly passive off the backhand wing and erratic off the forehand side, finishing with 66 winners and 61 costly unforced errors.

His reluctance to unleash his full power, to not press on the front foot was highlighted in just 6 of 19 break opportunities converted.

Furthermore, Thiem was 112-106 up in rallies with 0-4 strokes, whereas he was 17-24 down to the Spaniard in prolonged rallies involving nine or more strikes.

When he did press and advance up the court against Andujar, it was a success with 25/38 points won at the net. Very few can live with Thiem when he's aggressive, stepping in and lasering shots.

Enjoyment the key for Pablo's renaissance

Andujar, a former world No.32, had to be incredibly patient following four elbow surgeries from 2016-17 and after missing the 2018 campaign too.

Now the 35-year-old is thriving, which he believes is from competing with a spring in his step.

“It is very special to win here in Roland-Garros, in Court Philippe-Chatrier. Such an emotional win for me, being two sets to love down against an amazing player,” added Andujar.

“In every step I took since I came back after my injury, I really tried to enjoy everything, I really tried to give everything.

“I remember 2015 was a great year for me (third round at Roland-Garros). Maybe I have less legs and I play better tennis. But I think that's the most important part of it, it's the one I'm enjoying the most.”