Half a year since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Dominic Thiem stood at the top of the men's tennis world following that thrilling US Open crown. The Austrian had the opportunity to pass Rafael Nadal and finish the season inside the top-2, missing that but standing right behind Novak Djokovic and Rafa following the ATP Finals runner-up spot.
Struggling more and more, Thiem couldn't deal with the new tennis reality and all the rules, bubbles and restrictions, winning only five matches in 2021 and skipping two big tournaments after early losses in Doha and Dubai.
Struggling with injuries and dealing with lack of motivation in these troubled times, Dominic withdrew from Miami, Monte Carlo and Belgrade, recharging batteries and hoping for a fresh start in Madrid in May. A former Major champion, Mats Wilander, fears Dominic has been dealing with some depression, not carrying much about his recent results.
"For a tennis player, the ultimate indicator of depression is when you are on the court, and you no longer feel the emotional urge to win. When the outcome doesn't matter anymore, it's an alert. It's like a sporting death," Mats Wilander said.
Mats Wilander spoke about Dominic Thiem's recent struggles.
"Huge parts are lost, and the coronavirus has taken beautiful things, starting with traveling and moving freely. The bad things stay. It isn't easy to play through week after week in these circumstances.
Some guys can take it, for whom life in the bubble is probably an advantage, for example, Dan Evans or Alexander Bublik. They have problems focusing on sport in normal times. It's great for them; they concentrate exclusively on tennis, there is nothing else.
It was extreme in Dubai, we were locked up, but there was an everyday life outside of it. You were let out of the hotel at 9 p.m. and allowed to enter an empty stadium. That's not so great. I've had a completely planned life for as long as I can remember.
Every day, every week, every month is divided. I feel better knowing what will happen the next day. That's gone right now. I'm playing one of the most memorable matches in my life against local hero Kyrgios, and I'm getting 2-0 down.
The atmosphere in Melbourne was terrific, even though people didn't stand by me. And suddenly, there was a lockdown. I came into the locker room late at night, sweaty, and the facility was evacuated in the meantime - like a nuclear accident.
The day after next against Dimitrov, there was extreme midday heat in isolation. I didn't make it pushing that through and dealing with the situation. I chased the big goal of winning a Major for 15 years without looking left or right.
I achieved it - under weird circumstances, but that's not that important to me. In a way, some things fell by the wayside - private life, dealing with other things and broadening your horizons. You have to do something for your head, for your brain. There was only tennis. I want to change that a bit," Dominic Thiem said.