Dominic Thiem takes another step forward in his evolution with maiden Vienna title
In sports, just as in life, there is always a special place for class and style. For about a decade and a half now, Roger Federer’s elegance and charm, and the way he magically caresses that single-handed backhand of his, have mesmerized us to no end. But in the last five years, the 26-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem has mesmerized us with his own unique style, which is far removed from the elegance of Federer.
Thiem's tremendous court-coverage and power-packed forehand, which he hits with both feet in the air, make for one of the most awe-inspiring sights in today’s tennis. The devastating single-handed backhand is also a special weapon; he can push his opponents back with its sheer force, but also draw them forward with a delicate slice that reminds us a magician demonstrating his art, leaving the audience bewitched.
A player whose game is so destructive does not always guarantee results though, does it?Following Thiem's career is like a roller-coaster ride, where one moment you are in awe with his audacity and the very next you are pulling out your hair at his inconsistency.
Thiem, who relishes playing on clay the most, is perhaps the second best player of his generation on the surface - next only to the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal. The Austrian's tally of 10 titles on clay out of his overall 16, coupled with his consecutive runner-up finishes at Roland Garros, speak volumes of his claycourt prowess.
With his remarkable win at his home in Vienna, Thiem now has five titles this year. That's the most he has ever recorded in a single calendar year; 2019 has undoubtedly been a coming-of-age year for Thiem.
The 26-year-old, who was known as a claycourt specialist until last year, has bagged three titles on hardcourts so far this year. One of those was at the Indian Wells Masters 1000 in March, where he upset Roger Federer in three dramatic sets in the final to clinch the biggest win of his career.
After enjoying another strong season on clay in the spring, his third in a row on the tour, many began to question whether he'd ever be able to translate his claycourt success to non-clay surfaces too. Well, we've got the answer now, but after a bit of a delay.
After succumbing to first round exits at Wimbledon and the US Open earlier this summer, Thiem seemed to be staring at an uphill climb. However, the Austrian has demonstrated solid temperament and an insatiable hunger to succeed in the last couple of months to turn things around.
Thiem first won the title in Beijing, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. While he surprisingly lost to Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-final of the Shanghai Masters, Thiem’s maiden triumph at his home event is an encouraging sign for his hardcourt future.
Among the new crop of players, Daniil Medvedev has overtaken everyone with his back-to-back Masters triumphs. But Thiem has quietly continued to climb up the ladder too, making small improvements to his game that will serve him well in the long term.
Most importantly, it is Thiem’s attitude and character that set him apart from his peers. Always displaying a calm and balanced demeanor on the court, the Austrian rarely gets discouraged or disheartened by setbacks and losses, and instead always draws positives from every situation - like an ideal student of the game should.
This week, he dropped the first set in three of his five matches - against Fernando Verdasco, Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman. But Thiem never lost his composure or morale, and in fact rose to the challenge each time to win in three sets and eventually earn himself a maiden trophy in Vienna.
Even at the Grand Slams, especially at the French Open, the Austrian has displayed tremendous courage and passion to stay the course no matter who the opponent is. It won’t be a surprise if Thiem goes on to win Roland Garros one day.
Being an effective exponent of the heavy top-spin forehand, Thiem, has a lot in common with the 19-time Major champion Nadal. A quick mover on the court with a game as physical as that of the Spaniard, Thiem has the potential to become the world’s finest if he imbibes Nadal's values of discipline and grit.
Can Thiem continue his golden run into the upcoming Paris Masters 1000 and Nitto ATP Finals, and stamp his authority on the tour? With the return of all the ‘Big 3’ members and the younger players like Thiem and Medvedev gradually coming into their own, it seems that an exciting season finale is on the cards.