In a recent interview, Dominic Thiem talked at length about the psychological toll of achieving his lifelong dream - winning a Grand Slam title. Thiem claimed he now has the 'belief' that he can win Slams rather than just the 'hope' of winning them, which is difficult to get used to.
The World No. 4 overturned a two-set deficit to defeat Alexander Zverev in the final of the US Open last year. But Thiem has failed to go beyond the quarters of a Slam since then, looking visibly weighed down by the expectations at both the 2020 French Open and the 2021 Australian Open.
"That (change of expectations) put a lot of pressure on me. At the US Open I somehow turned it around," Thiem said. "Those struggles came again, before the Australian Open.
"Approaching a Grand Slam with the hope to win it, is different from approaching it with the belief that it can be won," the Austrian added. "I've only been in this situation for one year, I still have to learn how to deal with it."
Dominic Thiem, however, went on to express confidence in his natural power and shotmaking prowess to help him get over the slump.
"The huge power that I generate, I can hit winners from anywhere," Thiem said. "No matter how close the scoreline, I have trust in my shots. I have the ability of hitting winners out of nowhere."
Dominic Thiem came close to clinching the title at the ATP Finals last year, but has looked like a shadow of his usual self for much of 2021. The 27-year-old has also faced incessant injury issues on his right foot, and has now fallen out of the top 3 of the ATP rankings.
In that context, Thiem claimed he is still processing the fact that he has fulfilled his lifelong career goal, and that the US Open victory took a lot out of him mentally.
"It's such a big thing to realize your career goal. In the beginning, I didn't realize how much it took out of me. In a way, it still does," Thiem added. "Dealing with it, digesting it, it's a process I still have to learn."
Proud to be in the top 10 for the last 5 years: Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem has qualified for the ATP Finals for five consecutive years, and has become a mainstay in the top 10 of the ATP rankings. The Austrian revealed that he is immensely proud of that achievement, especially since there is so much competition at the top of the sport.
"The top 10 consistency is a thing I'm very proud of," Thiem said. "It shows that I didn't have a lot of ups and downs, I played at a very high level for most of the time."
"It's super tough to stay in the top 10," the Austrian added. "Tennis is such a competitive sport, with so many great players who have the possibility to break into the top 10, but not too many guys do it. That I have been there for almost five years makes me proud."
Dominic Thiem is currently on a break from competitive tennis, in the lead-up to the clay season. After a disappointing run in the Middle East, the 27-year-old decided to skip both the Miami Masters and the Monte Carlo Masters.
Dominic Thiem will return to action at the Serbia Open, following which he will look to put together strong runs in Rome and Madrid. Thiem's ultimate target this spring is Roland Garros, where he has twice been a finalist.