Analysis: Kyrgios, Thiem set to take a swing

  • Ravi Ubha

It could be the biggest match on Day 5 of Australian Open 2021 — Nick Kyrgios on his favourite court of John Cain Arena meeting last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem. Have the popcorn handy! 

MORE: Day 5 schedule of play 

Speaking of big, expect to see some big forehands from the duo. But who has the speedier forehand? 

Tournament data, powered by Infosys, shows that Thiem holds the advantage. That is not necessarily a surprise, but it’s the margin that maybe prompts a raised eyebrow. 

Thiem’s average forehand speed at the Australian Open in the last five seasons peaked at 131km/h in 2017 compared to Kyrgios’ 119.7km/h in 2018. Interestingly, though, both players have so far had less on their forehands at Australian Open 2021. 

Thiem registers 125.2km/h while Kyrgios comes in at 110.7km/h, comfortably his lowest tally since 2017. Less pace can mean more control, and they’ve both impressed on that front.

What the two share in common is taking on more balls on their forehands on the third shot when serving than in any of the past four Australian Opens. So, after the return. 

Thiem has struck forehands on those often devastating third shots 85.2 percent of the time, with Kyrgios tallying 69.8 percent. 

But where do the duo stand on that third shot? 

This is where Kyrgios’ more aggressive mindset — and heftier serve — is likely a significant factor. 

MORE: Can charged up Kyrgios stop Thiem domi-nation?

His third-shot contact point on serve registers at 2.7 metres inside the baseline. Those mammoth serves often prompt short replies, allowing the Canberra native to move well inside the court. And he also serves and volleys at times. 

Whether it’s a first or second serve, Kyrgios’ third shot is on average hit inside the baseline. 

Thiem’s contact point on the third point off a first serve is 0.3 metres inside the baseline — a high for him since 2017 — although on second serve that hit point on average continues to be behind the baseline. 

Thiem likes taking big swings on second serve returns — especially on his heavy forehand — which means actually moving back. But instead of staying in that position throughout a match, he will also inch just inside the baseline to change things up. 

It’s an adjustment the 2020 US Open winner has made over the years. Kyrgios’ pattern is simpler. On a first serve return he generally opts for a spot slightly behind the baseline, before moving inside the baseline to return second serves. 

Will the pair stick to their patterns or make tweaks in Friday’s night session? We know you’ll be watching …