Still missing fans, Thiem predicts 'great' clash against Medvedev

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With five matches down at the U.S. Open, Dominic Thiem still finds it difficult to maintain intensity in the absence of fans but even without them the second seed expects his next outing against last year’s finalist Daniil Medvedev to be a blockbuster.

Sep 9, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York,USA; Dominic Thiem of Austria serves against Alex de Minaur of Australia (not pictured) in a men's singles quarter-finals match on day nine of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Thiem took down Australian Alex de Minaur 6-1 6-2 6-4 in Wednesday’s final match on the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which would in previous years be bustling with a crowd of close to 24,000.

But no fans are allowed at this year’s Grand Slam due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not easy mentally to keep all the time the 100% energy,” Thiem told reporters on video conference. “Everything else I (have) got used to.

“But there are some situations in every match basically where it would be nice to have the crowd just to keep the energy up, just to celebrate great points, that it doesn’t feel that bad if you (are) going through a tough period.

“That was not easy to get used to. But it’s an unique situation. Now I’m in the semis, it was my fifth match today so I got used to it. (But) there’s still situations where it’s difficult or where the energy of the crowd would help.”

In the absence of top seed Novak Djokovic, who lost by default in the fourth round, and Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer - who opted out of this year’s tournament - the men’s draw will have its first new Grand Slam champion in six years on Sunday.

Thiem had three chances to become a major champion while Medvedev had a two-set lead over Nadal before he lost in last year’s U.S. Open final, which according to Thiem was one of the “better Slam finals ever”.

“I would say that he comes very close to the big three players in terms that he can play his top level, for doesn’t matter how long,” said Thiem, who lost two French Open finals to Nadal and this year’s Australian Open title clash to Djokovic.

“That’s going to be really, really difficult. But I’m looking forward to that one. I think it’s going to be a big stage, even if it’s without fans. It’s going to be a great semi-final.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Kim Coghill