Dominic Thiem had a disappointing start to his 2021 season, losing to Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets at the Australian Open. But the Austrian has put that defeat behind him, and has reiterated his desire to pull off the greatest challenge in tennis: winning the French Open and ending Rafael Nadal's supremacy in Paris.
Thiem won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, after having lost his previous Major finals to Rafael Nadal (twice) and Novak Djokovic (once). The 27-year-old came back from a two-sets-to-love-down deficit to defeat Alexander Zverev in the final at New York, and now he intends to push for more Grand Slam glory.
Speaking with Laureus, Dominic Thiem gave his thoughts on the idea of beating Rafael Nadal on his favorite court. The World No. 3 called Nadal's tally of 13 titles in Paris 'one of the greatest achievements in the history of the sport', before asserting that the Spanish bull is still the man to beat despite being in his mid-30s.
"What he's done in that tournament is probably one of the greatest achievements in the history of the sport, and I guess it's not over yet," Thiem said. "I think last year he was 34 years old and he played probably one of the best tournaments in history, so he's definitely the guy to beat."
Dominic Thiem is not one to shy away from a challenge though, and he openly declared that he wants to win the French Open while Rafael Nadal is still on the tour.
"Beating him on the center court at Roland Garros would be one of the biggest challenges in the sport, so I'd love to do it while he's still active." Thiem added.
"The pressure against Alexander Zverev was greater than against Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic" - Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem, who is the only player other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to have won a Grand Slam in the last four years, also reflected on his good record at the French Open. The Austrian even claimed that now that he has won his first Major title, his biggest goal is to win Roland Garros.
"It is by far the tournament where I have had the best results in the past," Thiem said. "And a long time ago I played the final in the junior event 10 years ago, aged 18 and 19. So after winning that first Grand Slam title, now it's my biggest goal and something I really want to achieve."
Dominic Thiem had faced Rafael Nadal in back-to-back finals in 2018 and 2019, losing both. However, the 27-year-old learned some valuable lessons from those setbacks.
In the final against Alexander Zverev at Flushing Meadows, Dominic Thiem managed to hold his nerve and become the first player in the Open Era to win the title from two sets to love down. The Austrian remarked that the pressure he felt in the match against Zverev was greater than the pressure he had felt in his previous Slam finals, because of the greater expectations on his shoulders.
"It's difficult to explain, but probably the pressure against Sasha was greater than against Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic," Thiem said. "Because if you lose against them you can always say that I lost against one of the best players in history and that takes a little pressure off you. But there it was totally different and that's why it was a difficult situation not only for me but also for my opponent in the final."