Tennis Prose




Jan/21

14

Can Dominic Thiem Conquer Australia?

It is fair to say that it took Dominic Thiem a few years to find his feet in tennis’ big four tournaments. Early exits and disappointing results from the Grand Slams were a regular occurrence for the diligent Austrian before he first made his breakthrough. In fact, even when he was making progress at Roland Garros, reaching the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017, his best in the other competitions was still just the fourth round.

Successive French Open finals in 2018 and 2019 were a sign that the Paris-based tournament was probably his best chance of triumphing at a Grand Slam. His constant appearances in the latter stages of the competition even got people questioning if he could take the reins as the ‘King of Clay’ from the aging Rafael Nadal.

However, last year Thiem proved that he is more than a one-trick pony, showing his class across all the surfaces of the tour. Well, aside from grass as Wimbledon was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But hopefully he can prove himself at the English championship later this year.

Last January, Thiem reached his first Australian Open final, getting past a number of tricky opponents to reach the final, including Gaël Monfils, Nadal and Alexander Zverev. However, despite taking a 2-1 set lead in the showpiece, Novak Djokovic fought back to deny the 27-year-old his first Grand Slam title.

That was just a sign of better things to come throughout the year for 2011 Junior French Open finalist. At the delayed US Open, Thiem took advantage of the reasonably weakened field. With Roger Federer still recovering from an injury, Nadal opting to not take part due to health concerns surrounding the pandemic and Djokovic disqualified for hitting a line judge with the ball, the door was wide open for those on the hunt of their first Grand Slam title and Thiem swooped in.

It wasn’t a straightforward triumph for the World No. 3. He went two sets down in the Flushing Meadows finale to Zverev but put on a fantastic comeback to lift his maiden Grand Slam title in New York, winning the thrilling encounter 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).

Winning a Grand Slam title is an incredible history-making feat in itself, but the absence of Federer and Nadal and the dismissal of Djokovic took some shine off Thiem’s victory. To have beaten one of tennis’ big three en route to his inaugural Slam would have been much more rewarding for the Austrian, and he has since admitted that is still something that he wants to achieve.

“Would the title have meant more if I could have beaten one of the big three on the way? A Major victory is a Major victory,” Thiem said. “Otherwise, one would have to say that all the titles before the ‘Big Three’ are worthless. But of course, I still want to win a title where I can beat one or maybe two of them.”

With the Australian Open just around the corner, Thiem will have the opportunity to do just that. The return of Nadal and Djokovic will certainly strengthen the field, and the latter will be hoping for a hattrick of successive titles at Melbourne Park.

Thiem, who has a career 300-157 match record in the ATP, is the joint-second favourite in the latest tennis betting, and given his form towards the back end of last year’s tour and his grueling training regimen during the off-season, which proved that there is no rest for the wicked, the Austrian will certainly be fired up as he heads into the tournament, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the 27-year-old add the Australian Open to his tennis prize cabinet, which currently holds seventeen career ATP singles title trophies.

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1 comment

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Unfortunately for Thiem, his coach Nico Massu has apparently tested positive for the virus flu and will most likely not be at the AO. Wonder if he has any or even one single symptom.

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