PARIS (Reuters) - Austrian Dominic Thiem said he would be happy to keep being scheduled away from the biggest courts at Roland Garros after continuing his progress at the French Open on Thursday.
The seventh seed, semi-finalist last year and the only player to beat favourite Rafael Nadal on clay this season, returned to the brand new Court 18 to complete a four-set victory over Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Leading 6-2 2-6 6-4 2-2 when the battle of the single-handed backhands was suspended because of bad light the previous day, Thiem was razor-sharp as he forced an early break of serve on his way to taking the decisive fourth set 6-4.
While there were yawning gaps in the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier and on Court Suzanne Lenglen, an unfortunate trademark of the French Open’s early matches, the sunken Court 18 was packed, with fans also standing at the back to get a view of the conclusion of the standout match of the second round.
“It’s a nice court really. Reminds me little bit of Pietrangelo in Rome, an amazing new stadium,” Thiem said.
“It’s, I think, always full because there are always great matches there. People really want to be there, and it was a great investment from the tournament to put the court there.
“The court was packed yesterday, and it was really packed today. I prefer to play on a full court with, I don’t know, 2,000, 2,500 people like court 18 than in front of 7,000 on Chatrier, because it feels kind of empty.
“The atmosphere was amazing, so I prefer to play there.”
In-form Thiem, who lost to 19-year-old Tsitsipas in Barcelona, said it had been a relief to come through against a player who has made enormous strides this season.
“Tsitsipas was for sure one of the toughest second-round opponents possible here, and I did it in four sets,” he said.
“It was overall a very good match, so my shape is great and I’m ready for everything that’s coming up.”
Tsitsipas had been bidding to become the first Greek man to reach the third round of a Grand Slam since 1969.
“He was hitting forehand winners everywhere today,” he said. “I felt we were evenly-matched yesterday but I played a silly service game and there was no way back.”
Thiem will face Italian Matteo Berrettini on Friday.
Court 18, with a 2,200 capacity, has proven popular with players and fans alike on its debut tournament.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by John Stonestreet and Ed Osmond