PARIS (Reuters) - American Steve Johnson played his heart out under electric Roland Garros skies on Friday before losing to Dominic Thiem in three sets, trading power and precision with the Austrian sixth seed in two hours of tension-filled tennis.
Like the rain clouds gathering overhead, punctuated by rumbles of thunder and a single lightning strike, the match built up gradually.
It reached a crescendo as the players each held and squandered two break points in successive games towards the end of the second set.
Had Johnson broken, he would have taken the set, but that was the last opportunity afforded him by an increasingly dominant Thiem, who ran out a 6-1 7-6(4) 6-3 winner.
With the weather serving as a dramatic backdrop to the action on court, Johnson might have been tempted to think back to Wednesday’s second round win over Croatian Borna Coric.
The 25th seed revealed then that he had drawn inspiration from the memory of his father, who died aged 58 three weeks ago.
Thiem, one of the dark horses to win the tournament after beating favourite Rafa Nadal in straight sets in Rome earlier this month, stepped up his heavy groundstroke game in the third set.
Mixing power with precision throughout, the Austrian closed out the match in a shade over two hours with an unreturned cross-court backhand volley.
Reporting by John Stonestreet; editing by Ken Ferris