Consistency is the key for Ironman Dominic Thiem who qualified for the ATP Finals for the third straight year. In 2016 and 2017, the Austrian posted a 1-2 record both years. On his debut year, he beat No.6 Monfils, losing to No.
2 Djokovic in three sets and to No. 4 Raonic. Last year he lost to eventual champion Dimitrov and to eventual runner-up Goffin, winning against Carreno Busta who replaced Rafa Nadal. Thiem is 14-18 against the fellow contenders in London this season.
He has a 5-2 record against Zverev, 2-1 against Federer and 1-0 against Cilic. He's tied at 1-1 against Isner but trails 2-5 to Djokovic, 2-6 to Anderson, 1-3 to Nishikori. The Austrian has recorded at least 50 match wins for the second time in his career, compiling a 53-18 record with three titles.
The World No. 8 claimed his first title of the season at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires without dropping a set, defeating Aljaž Bedene and followed it with two further titles at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Lyon (d.
Simon) and the St. Petersburg Open (d. Klizan). He also finished as runner-up at Roland Garros, losing to Nadal in his first Grand Slam final. “For sure, me, I'm confident that this was not my last Grand Slam finals, and that's my biggest goal, to get into the next one and then to do it better than today,” he said.
“Of course it's going to be easier, then, a little bit, because it's not going to be the first time anymore”. The Austrian had ended Nadal’s 50-set clay win streak, which began after Austrian defeated him in 2017 ATP Masters 1000 Rome quarterfinal, to become the first player to defeat Nadal on clay since Djokovic in 2016 Rome quarter-final.
That victory brought him to the second straight final in Madrid, where he lost to Zverev, the only player to own more tour-level victories in 2018. Thiem gave it all against the Mallorcan in a losing effort to mark his first Us Open quarterfinal.
“It's going to be stuck in my mind forever. Forever I'm going to remember this match, for sure” he said in the post-match press conference. “It's cruel sometimes tennis, you know because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser.
But there has to be one. And I would say if we skip the first set, was a really open match from the beginning to the end. Yeah, the way it ended up in the fifth set tiebreaker, there it's 50/50. He made one more point than me.
I would say [it is] the first really epic match I played. I'm happy that I did this for the first time, even if it went the wrong way. Of course, now I'm devastated a little bit. But in a few days, I will look back and will remember how great it was to play in front of a packed Arthur Ashe this great match”.
"I'm really looking forward to the week in London," Kleine Zeitung quoted him to say in Paris after he lost to eventual champion Khachanov his first semifinal at Masters 1000-level on hardcourt. "Of course, there was a lot going on in my head, London is a big goal, I really want to be there,” he said.
"I'm playing a lot better than the last two years, definitely, I feel fresher and of course more experienced, I've established myself there and of course the big goal is to get ahead for the first time” and clinch the maiden semi-final.
On quicker hardcourts, he explained in Shanghai, “there are not great adjustments to do. Just maybe a little bit shorter backswing and trying to stay close to the line. But of course, I think the faster the court gets, the more important the serve and the returning gets.
I try to practice a lot this part of my game and hopefully it works out”. In the last 52 weeks, Thiem is ranked 21st among the Serve Leaders, as he won 76,4% of first serve points and 52,4% on second deliveries, and 20th among the Return Leaders on tour, according to the ATP.
This year, in his Masters 1000 matches, Thiem maintained a significant variety as he served out wide and down the T in almost equal measure on both the deuce and the ad side. On return, he resulted particularly effective against body serves and showed an interesting change of strategy against big serves on hardcourt.
At Us Open, for example, when he faced Kevin Anderson he came far back, just as Nadal did in last year's final. “It's a huge difference. I played him three years ago on Court 17, which didn't allow me to go that far back.
It helped me a lot. I also did the same in Madrid. It worked out, so I thought why not on the hard court? It worked out” he said in the post-match press conference. “I mean, of course, I also played really safe from the baseline, which is also a big part of the performance today.
But against him, still, the most important is to put as many balls back into play as possible”. Thiem, said his coach Günter Bresnik to Tennisnet, plays much better tennis. “Dominic always knows what he has to do.
That's my favourite discussion with the experts: I claim that 70 to 90per cent of mistakes in a tennis match are technical in nature” he explained. “If Dominic senses that he can return the ball to the field, if he realizes he's always getting the ball neutral, then it's very easy to construct a point afterwards”.
The Austrian has always demonstrated to be a solid baseline player, but his success suffered when he struggled to put enough returns in. This season, the quality of his return has dramatically increased and, Bresnik concluded, “the higher the percentage, the further up the players [move in the rankings]”.
The renewed confidence brought him to become the tenth best player on tour in pressure points as he owns an 18-13 record in tiebreaks and is even more impressive in deciding sets having clinched 14 wins in 20 tries. The Austrian, who completed a 30-8 record on clay and a 22-8 on hardcourt, was almost unbeatable after winning the first set (42 wins in 44 matches) and managed to claim 11 comeback wins in the 27 matches he began losing the opener.
Mind is the power, and Ironman Thiem is no exception to the rule.