In a recent interview, US Open champion and World No. 4 Dominic Thiem expressed his dismay at how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away the good parts about professional tennis, and retained the bad. Thiem also admitted that he has been struggling with the mental side of things ever since the off-season, and that he isn't sure whether he can 'loosen up' again.
"Huge parts of the job are missing," Dominic Thiem said. "Corona has taken away the good things starting with the travelling, the free movement. The bad things remain. It is difficult to play week after week under these circumstances."
The Austrian then reiterated that achieving his lifelong dream of winning a Grand Slam at the US Open took a lot out of him psychologically.
"I think the pandemic is just an additional part of it all," the 27-year-old said. "If I had won the US Open last year in normal circumstances, things would have continued normally but I would have still been in the same state as I am in now."
Dominic Thiem ended last season on a relatively positive note, beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic during his run to the summit clash of the ATP Finals. But the Austrian descended into a state of despair soon after, and has been struggling to come out of it ever since.
"The problem with tennis is that it is so fast-moving and goes on week-after-week," Thiem said. "After (the US Open) I was in a state of euphoria. The results were still good, I reached the final at the ATP Finals in London. But during the preparation for this season I fell into a hole. We'll see if I can loosen up, I don't know, I hope so."
Thiem was also asked whether the effort to win a Slam had taken too much out of him, to which he replied in the negative. But he did admit that getting the monkey off his back made him reassess his priorities, and that he now wants to make room for things other than tennis in his life.
"It wasn't too much," Theim said. "I spent 15 years chasing the big goal without looking to the left or the right. As I said, I achieved it."
"In a way, some things have fallen by the wayside," the Austrian added. "My private life, dealing with other things, broadening my horizons. You have to do something for your head, for your brain. There was only tennis. I want to change that a bit."
"A lot of effort for relatively little return" - Dominic Thiem on his Australian Open failure
Dominic Thiem has now spent over a month away from competitive tennis action. Following a disappointing fourth-round loss at the Australian Open, he fell early in both Dubai and Doha. The Austrian then decided to skip the Miami Masters and the Monte Carlo Masters.
Thiem spoke at length about his run in Melbourne, and how the wildly fluctuating conditions greatly unsettled him. The Austrian claimed that his third-round win over Nick Kyrgios was 'one of the most memorable matches' of his career, but that the lockdown that immediately followed took the wind out of his sails.
"It was a lot of effort for relatively little return," Dominic Thiem said about the Australian Open. "I played one of the most memorable matches of my life against local hero Kyrgios, I came back from two sets down. The atmosphere in Melbourne was incredible, even if those people weren't cheering for me. And suddenly it was lockdown."
The Austrian described the atmosphere during the lockdown as a 'nuclear incident', and admitted that he couldn't regain his best after the sudden change.
"I came back into the locker room late at night, sweaty, and the facility was being evacuated in the meantime, like a nuclear incident," Thiem said. "Two days later against Dimitrov the mid-day heat was extreme and there wasn't anyone. I didn't push through, to cope with that situation."
Dominic Thiem then went on to reveal that he feels a "certain emptiness" in his tennis and his life at the moment. Even though he is a self-confessed football fanatic, the 27-year-old hasn't been able to make himself watch the matches on TV lately.
"I feel a certain emptiness, but it's not that big of a deal," Dominic Thiem said. "I didn't even watch the football Champions League last week, it's a tragedy. I also hardly followed the tennis tournament in Monte Carlo."
"The French Open is my big goal" - Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem will return to competitive tennis action at the Madrid Masters, following which he will play at Rome and Roland Garros. The Austrian revealed that winning the French Open remains a big goal for him this year, having been a two-time finalist (2018 and 2019) in the past.
"The French Open is my big goal," Dominic Thiem asserted. "Obviously, I have a training backlog. I haven't had matches against absolute top players for a long time, they are missing. I don't know where I stand. I hope I'll get to play some in Madrid and Rome. I want to be fully competitive in Paris, that is my ambition."
The World No. 4 went on to claim that he is looking forward to representing his country at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. He ended the interview by expressing hope for 'normality' to return to the world, while also vowing that he wouldn't let anything take away his love for tennis.
"A medal at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be an absolute dream," Dominic Thiem said. "I'd like to know but that's up to the pandemic. In any case, I will not let it take away my desire to play tennis, because normality will return at some point."