After recent struggles on hard courts should Dominic Thiem revisit his serve and baseline game?

Once again I find myself talking about Dominic Thiem. I am a big fan of the Austrian and I do believe he has a big future ahead of him but re-watching his performance in Sofia and thinking about the world tour finals as well and there are a few things that stood out for me.

Serving

Dominic Thiem’s serve at the world tour finals received plaudits for his ability to mix it up but on hard courts I’m not too sure whether it is helping him at the moment.

thiem-serve

These stats are via Sky Sports during the tour finals. 2 years difference on tour and the thing that stands out the most is the average speed which in those two years has gone down 6mph on the 1st serve which is slightly peculiar.

Looking into it further, variety is important in the modern game and I’ve always said that but anyone can bring variety to the court but bringing variety with conviction is important. There is an increase on kick and slice serve percentages but amazingly the flat serve is almost down 20%. This has allowed him to bring variety but has it taken away some ruthlessness with his serving.

In Sofia against Nikolasvili he was 40-0 up in the second set and lost five points in a row and to be honest the serving was poor and flat, you can take a risk at 40-0 but at 40-30, deuce and break point no risks should be taken.

Now I take us back to the World Tour Finals in London and we look at this against Milos Raonic.

dt-2

So, what shot in the rally is this still taken from? Quite remarkably the third! (On Thiem’s serve) This is where you have to be clever if you are in this impossible position 2 shots after the serve it isn’t working but I will come onto going into the body later. To be in this position just isn’t practical at all! Milos is happy and Thiem is fighting to stay in the rally so soon and just in case you wondered Raonic won the points moments later.

2nd serve

Slightly to do with the variety on the serve and it will effect the second serve even more but the stats show Thiem struggles on second serve especially on a hard court.

Last season stats – 2nd serve points won

All surfaces – 60% (35th on the tour) Hard court – 53% (57th on the tour)

This is a massive difference, majority of it could be down to court speed. Majority of hard courts are a bit slower at the moment so you either need more power behind the serve or introduce more flat serves to your game.

Into the body…

I’m not just talking about serving (which is how Thiem got himself into trouble against Raonic as shown with the image above) but I’ve seen a lot of Thiem going through rallies and trying to power the ball into the body and it can look desperate and isn’t effective against top players. We saw it a few times in Sofia in his match and it was annoying to watch but I found it more frustrating going back to the Raonic match.

It can work but it has to be perfect. The two matches where it has worked from recent memory are Vinci v Serena at the US Open where she used the slice down the middle perfectly to nullify any attack from the world number one and a few years back at Roland Garros where Muguruza went hard down the middle against Serena.

 

In a lot of rallies we see Thiem try to go big towards the body of his opponent and realistically it isn’t working at all! It may work now and then but on big points it’s costing him and it’s difficult to be effective and sometimes looks like he is in a rush. For example the average rally against Raonic at the O2 was no longer than about 3.6 shots per rally and didn’t have a match higher than 5 on average.

Overall I think going back to basics and what you know is a start for Thiem especially looking at more flat serves on hard court but also not rushing and working rallies instead of potentially going big and making errors.

Thiem has a busy 8 weeks ahead of him without a week off until Davis Cup weekend in April which then welcomes the clay court season.

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