On the 13th of September 2020, Dominic Thiem did something quite extraordinary. The wait for a new male Grand Slam champion was almost over however the Austrian was 2-6 4-6 and a break of serve down to Sascha Zverev in the final.
On Arthur Ashe Stadium which usually holds just under 24,000 spectators but this time there were just a handful of people there. Down two sets and a break you would forgive anyone for shutting up shop at that point but Dominic didn’t. There was no crowd to feed off, the biggest final of his career to date in an empty stadium and he rallied to one of the most phenomenal comebacks.
2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6, the comeback was complete.
That was the story, Dominic Thiem pulled off a Houdini escape and won his first Grand Slam title. A few weeks later he was runner-up in London ending his season in good form.
The dream was achieved.
Thiem has been tipped through his early career as the Prince of Clay but is yet to win a big title on the European clay courts in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome or Paris but has come close at Roland Garros.
Dominic Thiem said in a recent interview after the US Open he was “in a state of euphoria” and his results continued to be good as the season closed out.
After such a good end to the season the Austrian said in his 2021 pre-season he “fell into a hole”.
“I spent 15 years chasing the big goal without looking to the left or to the right. As I said, I achieved it.”
“But that’s not so important to me. In a way, some things have fallen by the wayside. My private life, dealing with other things, broadening my horizons.
“I achieved it under unusual circumstances, but that’s not that important to me. In a way, some things fell by the wayside. There was only tennis, I want to change that a little.”
“You have to do something for your head, for your brain.
Dominic Thiem has always been a player who plays a lot of tournaments, since 2015 he has played singles in 141 tournaments, Zverev for example has played 127. Not too much of a difference but including doubles the Austrian has played 460 matches in five years between 2015 and 2019 averaging 92 matches a year! Due to the global pandemic in March 2020 the schedule shortened but still a lot of tennis in what can be considered a short amount of time
He spoke about this knee injury which has been a problem and he wanted to test himself:
“I haven’t had any matches against top players for a long time. I hope it happens in Madrid and Rome. I want to be fully competitive in Paris.”
The French Open is still the “top goal” for the Austrian.
Thiem did do well in Madrid but fell short against Zverev and lost a close battle with Lorenzo Sonego in Rome but performed well, he just lacks that match rhythm.
The tour is different right now, limited crowds at some courts, no crowds at others and the roar of the crowds in Melbourne mixed in with different lockdown rules and regulations around the world would be difficult for anyone to adapt to.
It is interesting to hear Thiem talk about changing things that are important to him and not just focus solely on tennis.
I don’t want to say how Dominic Thiem was thinking but looking back, imagine winning the biggest title of your career after all that hard work since you were a kid and no one was there.
Thiem did say he had the “euphoria” but at the same time maybe more should have been thought about by those outside, it wasn’t just a box ticking exercise to say he has now won a Grand Slam, he is still a human and experiences the highs and lows of sport.
He took himself out of the fold for a bit and is playing to find that reset and now hopefully be ready for Paris and that deserves a lot of respect. He has slowed down his schedule and if it is right for him it is the right thing to do and I hope we see him at his happiest and at his best soon.
All quotes via Dominic Thiem’s interview with Der Standard