Thiem saves match point in victory over Rublev

by Jed Court

Monte Carlo (Principality of Monaco) (AFP) - Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem saved match point in a gripping Monte Carlo Masters second-round win over Russian youngster Andrey Rublev on Tuesday, while Grigor Dimitrov beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert in three sets.

A two-time French Open semi-finalist, Thiem recovered from a set down to book a last-16 clash against either Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Thiem is playing in his first tournament since suffering an ankle injury at Indian Wells last month.

Rublev spurned a chance to seal the match when he fired a forehand narrowly wide on his own serve late in the deciding set.

"I had to fight from the first to the last point, which of course I did well. But I was also lucky at the end when he had a match point and missed a forehand by 10 centimetres or so," said Thiem.

"I was 10 centimetres from being out of the tournament."

The 24-year-old Thiem could also have to face defending champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals if he can get past Djokovic or the in-form Coric on Thursday.

"It's a horrible draw for sure, from the first round on," conceded Thiem.

"But I'm happy that I played two hours and forty (minutes)... But I'm looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV and then playing the winner on Thursday."

After Rublev had edged a tight first set, Thiem clinched the second on his fourth set point before racing into a 4-1 lead in the decider.

His 20-year-old opponent cut loose, though, claiming four straight games to serve for the match.

But Rublev struck wide on match point and ran out of steam, double faulting to hand Thiem a place in round three as the world number seven won the last three games on the spin.

- Dimitrov sees off Herbert -

Fourth seed Dimitrov came from a set down to see off French qualifier Herbert 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Herbert started quickly, breaking in game three as Dimitrov struggled.

The world number five has often found life difficult on clay, having never reached the second week of the French Open.

And Herbert, the world number 82, wrapped up the opening set with another break as Dimitrov mishit a forehand into the stands.

But Dimitrov stepped up his game midway through the second set, reeling off five consecutive games to level the match.

The 26-year-old, who won the Cincinnati Masters and the ATP Tour Finals last season, threw away an early break in the third set, but quickly refocused to finish off the spirited Herbert.

Earlier, French number one Lucas Pouille blew a one-set lead to be dumped out by German serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev in a third-set tie-break.

Seventh seed Pouille, a semi-finalist last year, eased through the first set but Zverev hit back to claim a 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/3) victory and reach the third round for the first time in his career.

The world number 55 trailed 4-2 in the decider, but broke back immediately before clinching the tie-break when a Pouille return dropped into the base of the net.

"I'm really excited to have won two matches here in Monte Carlo, it's an incredible feeling," said the 30-year-old Zverev.

Fernando Verdasco saved three match points to beat Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in a first-round match, while Briton Kyle Edmund lost in three sets to Andreas Seppi, less than 48 hours after a final defeat in Marrakech by Pablo Andujar.

American Jared Donaldson was fined 5,000 euros ($6,172) by the ATP for his outburst at French umpire Arnaud Gabas on Monday during a first-round loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas.