Dominic Thiem lost grip on his winning momentum as last weekend’s Indian Wells champion was toppled 6-4, 6-4 by growing Polish threat Herbert Hurkacz in the Miami Open.
The second-round shock left the Austrian pondering the whimsical nature of tennis five days after earning massive confidence by beating Roger Federer for the trophy in California.
The world No. 4 will now set his sights on his admittedly favourite surface – clay, with the Monte Carlo Masters just three weeks away.
Third seeded Thiem went down in 77 minutes to his 54th-ranked Polish opponent, who has beaten Kei Nishikori twice this season, in Dubai and Indian Wells.
“He played well,” the Austrian said. “For me, in general, everything was a level too low.”
Thiem began the match with a break but lost it as the tone of the contest began to take shape.
“After that, he was just a bit better player,” Thiem, who was unable to profit from an early break in the second set, added.
The 25-year-old Roland Garros finalist is now ready for a re-set: “Now it’s clay court time.”
Thiem did not blame his ouster on anything but his own lack of form. “It was not due to a change of court conditions or to fatigue. Conditions were actually good for me and I felt comfortable playing.”
Hurkacz now goes into a battle with teenaged Canadian qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 4- 6, 6-0.
Top seed Novak Djokovic started his bid for a sixth title here with a 7-6(2), 6-2 defeat of Australian Bernard Tomic.
The ATP No. 1 completed his task at the temporary centre court erected inside the massive gridiron football stadium used by the Miami Dolphins, a fact which seemed to impress Djokovic.
“It’s a nice court. They’ve done a really good job. They have taken, I think, a very bold step forward in the right direction. For us, being a part of the Miami Dolphins Stadium is a treat.”
The men’s and women’s event was forced into a change of venue after 32 years on the picturesque Miami island of Key Biscayne after losing a legal battle to try and expand the ageing Crandon Park venue.
The last-chance offer to save the event from being moved internationally came from the billionaire owner of the American football side, which tennis organiser IMG jumped on.
Djokovic still finds Tomic a challenge even after posting his sixth win without a loss against the Aussie.
“He doesn’t give you much rhythm at all. Every ball is different. He just has a very unconventional shot. Kind of hard to play someone that you can’t really predict what’s next.”
Djokovic is working to improve after taking a third-round defeat at Indian Wells against Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“I’ve had quite a lot of court time between the Indian Wells loss in singles and now, tonight’s match. I’ve worked on everything I need to work on.
“Now it’s just a matter of time to build the momentum and build that match play,” the top seed said.
He will now play Argentine Federico Delbonis, who beat another Australian in John Millman 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(2).
Nick Kyrgios got a win for Australia, defeating Kazakh Alexander Bublik 7-5, 6-3.