Up-and-comers Dominic Thiem and David Goffin battled for one of the game’s oldest clay-court titles.
Right before the start of the 2015 French Open, 21-year-old Thiem won the first title of his career in Nice, France, to continue his steady rise up the rankings, one that saw him earn a place among the seeds for the first time at Wimbledon. After a second-round loss there, he surprisingly dropped two Davis Cup rubbers at home against the Netherlands on clay, his best surface.
Putting those defeats behind him, the Austrian went on to capture a second title on the year in Umag, Croatia. Having settled into a groove on the dirt, Thiem continued his run of good form the following week by advancing to the final at the Swiss Open in Gstaad. In the championship match, the third seed would face Goffin, the top seed from Belgium who had won two of his three matches in straight sets and had been pushed to the brink in the quarterfinals, surviving a third-set tiebreak against Joao Sousa.
In the final of the clay-court tournament in Kitzbuhel, Austria, a year earlier, Goffin topped Thiem for his first career title in a battle between two players each contesting their first championship appearance. Goffin had also defeated Thiem in two other matches that year, on grass and hard courts, showing that his game matched up against the Austrian’s on any surface. In their most recent match, though, early in 2015 in Marseille, Goffin had to retire down 5-1 in the first set due to injury.
The opening set of this match saw both players struggle on their service games. Goffin managed to gain a foothold in the set, winning four games straight to serve for the first at 5-4. Once again, though, Thiem broke the top seed’s serve to level the score at 5-5. After holding for a 6-5 lead, Thiem got another break in a hard-fought game to go up one set to love. Goffin broke Thiem in the first game of the second set, but sensing a third title on the year within his reach, the Austrian recovered and only dropped one more game on his way to a 6-2 second-set victory.
Thiem became the first-ever Austrian finalist and champion at the tournament in the Open Era.
Goffin was playing his fifth final in a year’s time, with his record dropping to 2-3 in championship matches.
Twenty years before Thiem won this title, Thomas Muster—the only Austrian to reach No. 1 and win a Grand Slam singles championship—saw his 40-match winning streak on clay come to an end at the hands of Alex Corretja in the first round in Gstaad.