MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem is into the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, which is an all-new experience for him.
He could face a familiar foe next, though. So he planned to be be kicking back on the couch watching on TV later Monday when top-ranked Rafael Nadal and No. 23 Nick Kyrgios met in a night match.
The fifth-seeded Thiem beat No. 10 Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena to extend his winning streak to six against the mercurial Frenchman.“I played my best match so far. Very, very good feeling," Thiem said. “I’m so happy, because I’m for the first time in the quarterfinals here."
After losing the final at Roland Garros to Nadal last year, Thiem didn't win another match at a Grand Slam in 2019. He lost first-rounders at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, but has put together a run so far in Melbourne Park, where he'd previously reached the fourth round twice.
Having a day match, when the ball is moving quicker in the warm conditions than in the relative cool at night, worked well for Thiem. So did the viewing schedule.
“I couldn’t be happier than to be into the quarterfinals, and to watch relaxed from home," the 26-year-old Austrian said of the Nadal-Kyrgios clash. “Very excited for that match. It’ll be an entertaining contest."
There was guaranteed to be a first-time quarterfinalist on the women's side, and Anett Kontaveit took the honors when she rallied from a set and a break down to beat 18-year-old Iga Swiatek 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5, despite being broken twice in games when she was serving for the match.
She'll next play Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who reached the final in Australia two years ago before winning the 2018 French Open title.
Kontaveit was 0-3 in her previous trips to the fourth round at major, but was coming off a 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 6 Belinda Bencic.
“It was such a battle today. So happy I toughed it out," the 28th-seeded Kontaveit said. “I was just trying to stay as tough as I could — fight for every point.
Against Halep, she said, she'd need to step up another level.
“I have nothing to lose, so I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it."
Halep beat Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-4 in a tough fourth-rounder.
The third game lasted 16 points, with Halep finally converting her fourth break-point chance. Mertens broke back in the fifth game and fended off another two break points in another long hold before Halep went on a rolling, winning six straight games to take control of the match.
Halep's two previous wins over Mertens were on clay, although the Belgian won their only other match on a hard court.
“I had in my head she came back in that match,” Halep said. "But mentally I think I did a great job today.
“I feel like I played a better match than all the matches since I'm here.”