Dominic Thiem finally broke through on Sunday, winning his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open. The Austrian came out on top at the end of a dramatic, topsy-turvy five-set final against first-time finalist Alexander Zverev.
Many believe Thiem has now passed the last hurdle, and joined the exclusive club of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic that makes up the elite of men's tennis. But during the final, there were several moments when the Austrian looked far from a Slam champion.
Dominic Thiem looked sluggish right from the start, going down two sets to love through a flurry of unforced errors and double faults. And even when he turned things around and got in position to win in the fifth set, he was afflicted by a severe bout of nerves that prevented him from playing his best.
The sub-par quality of Dominic Thiem's play has given rise to claims that his triumph should have an asterisk attached to it. Many believe the 27-year-old wouldn't have lifted the trophy if all the members of the Big 3 had participated in the tournament.
But the new US Open champion believes otherwise. Speaking with New York Times after his triumph, Dominic Thiem gave his thoughts about not having faced any of the Big 3 at the US Open and how that affected his outlook towards the tournament.
"Whoever I beat, it doesn't matter to me" - Dominic Thiem
With none of the Big 3 present at the business end of the US Open, the draw was deemed to be wide open. World No. 3 Dominic Thiem made the most of the opportunity, and finally got over the hump after having lost three Major finals previously.
Asked whether winning the US Open title meant less to him due to the easier route he had, Dominic Thiem was quick to dismiss the notion. The Austrian asserted that a player has no control over the draw, and that he can only beat those in his path.
"Not at all, for me it's not worth less or more," Thiem said. "Whoever I beat, it doesn't matter to me. I had the chances in my previous finals to beat one of the Big 3 or even two of them on the road to a title."
Thiem also expressed optimism about his chances at the French Open, which is scheduled to start from 27 September, now that he has gotten the proverbial monkey off his back.
"I failed (at beating Big 3 at other Slams), but I hope that I'll get more chances to do so. There is the French Open around the corner," Thiem said.
"Independence and growing up is so important" - Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem also spoke in brief about his relationship with his former coach Gunter Bresnik, who recently launched a lawsuit against the Thiem camp over unfulfilled contractual obligations.
Thiem reiterated that breaking away from his long-time mentor was hard, but that it allowed him to take more responsibility for his career and playing style.
"Independence and growing up is so important, on court if it's 5-5 in the fifth, you have to take the decisions, your own decision. It was a huge step and a very tough decision," Thiem said.
The 2020 US Open titlist has built a more specialized team after the end of his partnership with Bresnik, which is reflected in his recent results. However, Thiem still thanked Bresnik during the interview, given that he was under his tutelage from the age of eight.
"Of course, I have to thank Gunter a lot. He taught me all the strokes I have, but at the same time I felt there were some little parts of my game that I really can improve so much, and that's what Nico [Massu] helped me with, especially the improvement I did on the faster surfaces," Thiem said.