Dancing on his toes behind the baseline, Dominic Thiem was a man in motion before the tie break began.
Even when the ball wasn’t in play, Thiem looked like he was going places.
In a bold, brilliant service display, Thiem did not face a break point pounding past 2017 US Open finalist Kevin Anderson, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (2), to reach his first US Open quarterfinal.
Though he served just 49 percent, Thiem permitted just four points on first serve, won 65 percent of his second-serve points and matched the lethal-serving Wimbledon finalist in aces with seven, including an ace down the middle to force the tiebreak.
The fifth-seeded South African arrived in New York empowered by contesting two of the last four Grand Slam finals. Anderson had won six of seven career clashes with Thiem, but none of that mattered much to the 24-year-old Austrian, who rcompeted with calm clarity raising his record to 42-14.
It is Thiem’s fourth career Grand Slam quarterfinal propelling the Roland Garros runner-up into a potential French Open final rematch with Rafael Nadal, who leads Nikoloz Basilashvili by two sets.
Contesting his fourth US Open fourth round in the last five years, Thiem turned the conditions on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium to his advantage.
Dropping back well behind the baseline to receive, Thiem largely denied Anderson free points on serve forcing the former all American at Illinois to rally.
“First of all, I served really, really well today. Not the best percentage, but I almost made every point in the first serve game,” Thiem said. “So I didn’t face one break point, and I didn’t feel so much pressure on service games.
“So it was a little bit easier to play the return games. I could change my return position, and this helped me a lot. And also the court, I think, made a big difference. It’s a huge court. I could go very far back like I do on clay usually. So there were some good advantages for me today. ”
Though Anderson won 34 of 49 trips to net, time and time again Thiem produced passing shot magic when he needed it most.
“I definitely felt he played a great match,” said Anderson, who had reached the quarterfinals or better in two of his last three US Open appearances. “He made life pretty difficult for me. I thought he defended amazingly.
“I think a lot of success I have had in the past is I have been able to work points, find the right time to come forward. Still had a pretty good success rate coming forward today, but there were pockets where he had some unbelievable passing shots, made me hit another ball. That made things pretty tough.”
The New York Open champion is an imposing presence on serve, but his inability to pressure Thiem’s serve cost Anderson today.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” Anderson said. “I wanted to be here right till the end and put myself in contention of winning my first major. It wasn’t meant to be. As I said, I think it was definitely Dom’s day today. He played a great match. Best of luck to him throughout the tournament now.”
In the space of a year, Thiem has experienced ecstasy and agony in New York.
A year ago, Thiem suffered the most excruciating loss of his career at the same stage of the US Open.
Climbing off the canvas from a two-set deficit, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro roared back to top Thiem, 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4, in the 2017 fourth round as Argentinian fans chanted and danced in the aisles creating a Davis Cup atmosphere.
Today, it was more of a pro-Thiem crowd in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium and the ninth-seeded Austrian rode that wave of support through the finish line.
Trying to shorten points, Anderson left a stretch forehand volley hanging in the middle of the court and Thiem streaked forward to slash a forehand pass for the mini break and 3-2 lead.
In full flight, Thiem lashed a forehand down line drawing a stretched forehand error for four. The man with the wondrous one-handed backhand slid a chipped backhand pass to close in two hours, 37 minutes.
It’s Thiem’s first major quarterfinal outside of Roland Garros and fulfilled his dream.
“It’s a dream coming true,” Thiem told Andrew Krasny and the Louis Armstrong crowd afterward. “I was really close last year and I couldn’t close it out. Last year, the whole stadium was full of Argentinians and I couldn’t close it out. And today you guys were on my side so thank you.”