"There were almost no rallies. He almost served only first serves and underarm serves. He gave me no rhythm at all. He did it very good, actually," Thiem said of Bublik, who finished with 16 aces.
"Probably, for spectators, nice to watch because he played so different, but for me it was very tough. Generally, it was a strange match, I think. Somehow the fire never got there."
Perhaps "The Dominator" needs to start living up more to his nickname again.
Underarm serve still divides opinion
The “oohs” and “aahs” started when Bublik chucked in a cheeky underarm serve when 4-1 up in the second set and quite wrong-footed Thiem, who could only shovel the ball back and allow the Kazakh a nice, easy pass.
Suitably encouraged by this, Bublik tried it soon afterwards and again won the point, leading to what seemed a fairly unanimous chorus of disapproval from the Philippe-Chatrier crowd who evidently felt this just wasn’t the done thing. Neither had German player Rudolf Molleker, Bublik’s first round victim, been too impressed when the Kazakh had tried it on him.
It was third-time unlucky when Bublik tried it once more in the third set and Thiem, by now cottoning on to the ploy, responded with a winning drop shot response of his own. The crowd cheered with delight that Bublik had been seemingly hoisted by his own petard.
"I expected it," said Thiem, of his triple test. "To be honest, it's a good choice against players like us who are that far behind the baseline. There is nothing bad about it. I was prepared for that, so that was no problem."
Thiem pleased with patience
While Thiem never seemed quite in control of this match against an erratic runaway opponent, he could at least be satisfied with producing a much less error-ridden performance than against Paul, this time producing only 16 unforced errors compared to the 28 he gifted to the American.
Patience had to be at the heart of the Austrian’s approach against such a wildly-fluctuating opponent and, ultimately, his more solid, conservative approach paid dividends as Bublik’s pyrotechnics eventually burned themselves out.