HALLE, GERMANY - Yuichi Sugita stunned world No. 7 Dominic Thiem in straight sets in the second round of the Gerry Weber Open on Wednesday.
No. 52 Sugita beat the third-seeded Austrian 6-2, 7-5 in 1 hour, 27 minutes, and earned a spot in the quarterfinals against American Denis Kudla.
“This is my best match of my career,” Sugita said. “I just try to do my best (in the quarterfinals). This is my favorite surface so I just try to enjoy the grass court.”
In another second-round match at the Wimbledon tuneup tournament, seventh seed Kei Nishikori fell 6-2, 6-2 to Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
The 29-year-old Sugita dominated the match against the French Open runner-up from the beginning at Gerry Weber Stadium. He opened by winning four games in a row, while Thiem committed 33 unforced errors and failed to convert a single breakpoint opportunity.
“I tried not to give my opponent control of the match. My serves were constant until the very end,” said Sugita, who earned his maiden title on the ATP World Tour at last July’s Antalya Open.
Thiem switched over to grass this week and came to the court with a first-round win in northern Germany at a venue styled as a smaller replica of the All England Club’s iconic Centre Court at Wimbledon.
“Sugita played really well, and gave me little chance to attack,” Thiem said. “I was missing a few percentage points on my game.
“I was not great on returns and was struggling on serve. He completely deserved the victory.”
Thiem will return to Austria for five days of rest and fly to London in midweek.
However, he remains unconcerned with the state of his grass game after also losing in Halle in the second round a year ago before reaching a career-best Wimbledon fourth round.
“Last year I played the same as I did this year and played well at Wimbledon. I would have rather done much better,” Thiem said.
“But margins are much tighter on grass. If you have a bad day you can’t dig it out like I can on clay. If I don’t play at 100 percent — like today — the match is lost.”
Earlier in the day, the seventh-seeded Nishikori, who admits he struggles on grass, only managed one ace to Khachanov’s seven while committing 32 unforced errors against the world No. 36.
Injuries have forced the world No. 27 to retire early from each of the last three tournaments in Halle, but he beat Germany’s Matthias Bachinger in the first round to open up this year’s grass-court season.
“I made too many mistakes today. I’m not having trouble physically, and I played well in the first round,” Nishikori said.
Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam where Nishikori has failed to reach the quarterfinals. The annual grass-court major starts July 2 in London.
“I still have a week to practice (for Wimbledon) in London, so I want to concentrate on my training,” Nishikori said.