Novak reaches 3rd round with help from compatriot Thiem
LONDON (AP) — Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak is through to the third round at Wimbledon, with a little help from the Thiem family.
The 171st-ranked Novak defeated 17th-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (8), 3-6, 6-2 on Wednesday to double his Grand Slam win tally.
Novak, in the main draw at the All England Club for the first time, trains alongside French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem and is coached by his countryman’s father, Wolfgang.
“We speak a lot and I think he’s played almost against everyone already,” Novak said of Dominic, who quit his first-round match at Wimbledon with a back injury. “So I ask him for advice if he can tell me something about the players.”
The tips on Pouille appeared accurate as Novak raced into a two-set lead in less than an hour.
However, after saving two match points in the third set tiebreaker, the Frenchman found his rhythm, hitting 15 winners in the fourth set to level.
Novak’s self-belief was brought under further scrutiny when he allowed Pouille to cancel out an early break at the beginning of the fifth set, but the Austrian rallied to win four games in a row and seal victory in just short of three hours.
In the back of his mind were the words of encouragement he has received from seventh-ranked Thiem.
“He just tells me he knows how good I can play, and he really believes in me, and that’s what makes me feel really good and comfortable,” Novak said.
Novak, who made his Grand Slam debut in a first round defeat to Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open earlier this season, is playing the fourth grass-court tournament of his career.
His ranking prevented him from entering second-tier, let alone ATP, warmup events for Wimbledon, but having come through three rounds of qualifying in London, Novak is taking a liking to the surface.
“I don’t know if I’m a specialist but I think my game is OK for grass,” Novak said. “I return good, I have a flat backhand and I serve good.”
His next challenge is a matchup with 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic, who at 147mph (236kph), delivered the second fastest serve in Wimbledon history as he advanced in straight sets against John Millman.
“I know he’s around Dominic Thiem quite a bit, I think they train together,” Raonic said. “I know I haven’t seen him play... I have 48 hours to learn as much as I can.”
Raonic’s best preparation might be recalling what Thiem’s tactics were last time he faced him.
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