2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem withdrew from this year's edition of the tournament - as well as the rest of the 2021 season - due to a wrist injury he picked up at the ATP 250 event in Mallorca. But the Austrian is keeping himself involved with the tour during his time off, and he recently appeared on Tennis Channel to talk about the disappointment of skipping the defense of his maiden Major title.
When asked to reflect on his 2021 season overall, Thiem admitted it had been "pretty bad" and that he struggled to deal with the COVID restrictions early on.
"(The year has been) pretty bad unfortunately," Thiem said. "I was far from my best. Australia was still fine playing wise, but I had some troubles with all the bubbles and the last season was very hard physically and mentally."
The 27-year-old went on to point out that taking a break from practice in March caused him to lose his timing and rhythm, which in turn adversely affected his clay swing.
"I felt low energy and was not in my best shape, so I took some time off after Australia, and didn't practice much," Thiem said. "This kind of got to me in the clay season. I mean I was missing hours on the court, missing matches against the top players. That’s why the clay season wasn’t great, especially at the French Open where I was playing bad, moving bad, physically probably in the worst shape in quite a while."
Dominic Thiem started to feel like he getting back to top shape in the lead-up to Wimbledon, but that is precisely when the injury struck. The 27-year-old was dominating his second-round match against Adrian Mannarino in Mallorca before he hurt his wrist and was forced to withdraw.
"After that (the clay season) I started to practice pretty well and motivation was there 100%," Thiem said. "And exactly when I started to play well - in Mallorca I was 5-2 up in my first match on grass - exactly in that moment that injury happened."
Dominic Thiem further asserted it has been "very tough" to miss the last two Majors of the year, and that he'd have to continue wearing the wrist splint for another four weeks. But the 27-year-old is hopeful of returning to the tour in early 2022, possibly in time for the Australian Open.
"I mean it’s only the second Major I’ve missed besides Wimbledon (earlier this year) since the Australian Open in 2014," Dominic Thiem said. "Wimbledon was really short after the injury and for the US Open I still had a little bit of hope, especially as the defending champion and with a full crowd I badly wanted to come there again this year, but simply couldn’t make it. Now I'm here watching it from far away."
"Yeah I hope it’s the start of next season, that’s the goal, to be back as soon as 2022 starts," he added. "I still have the splint on my wrist for four more weeks, after those weeks I’ll get an update and know more. But the hope is I’ll be back in Australia 2022."
2020 US Open final was "just crazy": Dominic Thiem
During the course of the interaction, Dominic Thiem also spoke about what it felt like to win his first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows last year. The Austrian claimed that the event, which was the first with a 'bubble' after COVID-19 struck last year, was a very unique experience.
Thiem highlighted the fact that there were no fans in the arena while the players moved around between practice sessions, which he called "quite sad".
"It was a crazy 2 or even 4 weeks," Thiem said. "We all arrived 2 weeks before the tournament started. It was obviously the first tournament back after the lockdown, the first big one. For me and for other players it was quite a big change."
"It was the first tournament in a bubble as well," he added. "Without fans. So that was a huge difference. But I got used to it pretty fast, thank God. It was very unique. Moving around the site with nobody around, without any fans, was quite sad. Going into the Arthur Ashe stadium for the night session when there is absolutely nobody around."
Dominic Thiem also spoke about his five-set final with Alexander Zverev, where he came back after being two sets and a break down.
"The final was just crazy," Thiem said. "I gave it all out there and I left all the energy I had in this match. I saw it was maybe a chance of a lifetime, and I’m lucky I used it at the end."