Dominic Thiem grew into his opening-round match Tuesday at the Millennium Estoril Open, but World No. 58 Benjamin Bonzi was up to the challenge as he saved three set points in a second-set tie-break to advance, 6-3, 7-6(9).
The Austrian former World No. 3 was competing in just his second ATP Tour event of the 2022 season after recovering from a right-wrist tear he sustained last June. After a loss in a Marbella ATP Challenger Tour event and three-set defeat last week against John Millman at the Serbia Open, Thiem was seeking the first victory of his return.
That seemed unlikely after an error-strewn opening set in which Thiem battled through three lengthy service games and won only four points on the return. But after saving a break point in his second service game of the second stanza, Thiem found his footing as he began to dominate on serve to force a tie-break against the Frenchman.
In a dramatic tie-break, Thiem saved a match point on serve at 5-6 then had three chances to send it into a decider, including one on serve. But the Austrian could not find the decisive stroke in several rallies, and Bonzi ultimately took the initiative to close the match out by winning the last three points.
Bonzi did not face a break point in the match and protected his delivery well behind a 79 and 70 per cent win rate on first and second serves, respectively. The 25-year-old entered Estoril at a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 58 after qualifying for Monte Carlo. His two best results of 2022 came in consecutive February weeks on home soil: After winning an ATP Challenger Tour title in Cherbourg, he reached the semi-finals of the ATP 250 in Marseille, where he took a set off eventual champion Andrey Rublev.
The Frenchman next faces eighth seed Sebastian Korda, after the American closed Tuesday’s play with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Frances’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
“He’s a difficult opponent; you never know what you’re going to get out of him,” Korda said of Herbert. “He serve-and-volleys, plays well from the back. So it’s very difficult. I’m very happy with the way I played today, a great match for me.”
Assessing his 2022 season on the whole, which includes a Delray Beach quarter-final and a three-set battle with Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells, Korda added: “The year’s been good so far. I’m learning a lot, having a lot of close, tight matches. I’m just trying to take the next step now, just staying patient and working hard, and it’ll come.”
His match against Bonzi will be the first ATP Head2Head meeting between the pair, though Korda won a 7-6(5), 7-6(1) semi-final in a Quimper Challenger last January — an event he went on to win.
Another unseeded Frenchman, Richard Gasquet, scored a Tuesday upset against seventh-seeded American Tommy Paul. After his 7-5, 6-2 victory, the 35-year-old will face Hugo Dellien in the second round. The Bolivian qualifier was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Jiri Vesely earlier in the day.
Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas also advanced on Tuesday with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 result over Aussie Jordan Thompson. He’ll face Soonwoo Kwon in the second round after the South Korean defeated Benoit Paire, 6-4, 7-5, on Monday.