NEW YORK • With five matches down at the US Open, Dominic Thiem still finds it difficult to maintain intensity in the absence of fans.
But even without them, the second seed expects his semi-final clash against last year’s Flushing Meadows finalist Daniil Medvedev to be a blockbuster.
Thiem took down Australian Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in Wednesday’s last match at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which would in previous years be bustling with a crowd of close to 24,000.
But no fans are allowed at the hard-court Grand Slam due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s not easy mentally to keep all the time the 100 per cent energy,” Thiem told reporters via video conference call.
“Everything else I (have) got used to. But there are some situations in every match basically where it would be nice to have the crowd just to keep the energy up, just to celebrate great points, that it doesn’t feel that bad if you (are) going through a tough period.
“That was not easy to get used to. But it’s a unique situation. Now I’m in the semis, it was my fifth match today so I got used to it. (But) there’s still situations where it’s difficult or where the energy of the crowd would help.”
In the absence of top seed Novak Djokovic, who lost by default in the fourth round, and Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – who opted out of this year’s tournament – the men’s draw will have its first new Grand Slam champion in six years on Sunday.
Thiem has had three chances to become a Major champion, losing in two French Open finals and the Australian Open showpiece match in January.
Medvedev also had a two-set lead over Nadal before he lost in New York last year, which according to the Austrian was one of the “better Slam finals ever” and he expects the Russian to pose a big threat, with both players desperate to break their Slam duck.
“I would say that he comes very close to the big three players in terms that he can play his top level, for doesn’t matter how long,” said Thiem. “That’s going to be really, really difficult.
“I think it’s going to be a big stage, even if it’s without fans. It’s going to be a great semi-final.”
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams paid tribute to her fellow pros, who are juggling playing on the WTA Tour, while also adapting to their role as new mothers.
The 23-time Slam winner, who is seeking to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record in New York, was tested en route to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 quarter-final win over Tsvetana Pironkova.
Despite having her first child two years ago, Bulgarian Pironkova made a surprise run in her first tournament in three years, leading former world No. 1 Williams to acknowledge “how tough mums are”.
“Whenever you can birth a baby, honestly, you can do anything and you saw that with Tsvetana today,” the American said. “She played unbelievable. I could barely win a match when I came back.”
The 38-year-old takes on another mum in two-time Major winner Victoria Azarenka of Belarus for a place in tomorrow’s final.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS