Injuries are every sportsperson's worst nightmare, and Dominic Thiem's unexpected downfall after clinching the first Major of his career at the 2020 US Open is a good example of that. The physical issues that troubled the Austrian at the start of the 2021 season continued to haunt him the rest of the way, culminating in a wrist injury that forced him out of Wimbledon and the US Open.
Thiem doesn't need surgery for the injury, but getting off to a good start next season won't be an easy task. And while he is preparing to play in Australia at the start of 2022, his former coach and 1995 Roland Garros champion Thomas Muster believes the 28-year-old is in for a long period of struggle.
Muster recently claimed it will take a year for Dominic Thiem to get used to the competition again. The 54-year-old based his prediction on his own previous experiences of coming back to the tour after being forced to stay out due to injury.
"I believe that he will be back again in 2023. Next year it will be extremely difficult," Muster said.
"This (recovery) cannot be done overnight. After my injury it took me longer, I played with enormous pain for the rest of the year, and it took longer to get back up there," he added.
Thomas Muster also pointed out that the rankings could be a significant obstacle to Dominic Thiem's comeback attempt. Thiem has fallen to No. 9 in the ATP rankings, and he is likely to slide down further if he fails to defend his points - both pre-COVID and post-COVID - at the 2022 Australian Open.
Muster explained that it is crucial for the 28-year-old to make it to at least the Round of 16 in Melbourne if he hopes to get direct entry into the biggest events.
"You just have to look at the ranking, if the Covid points are gone, he (Thiem) will be around number 60 in the world," Muster said. "If he can’t defend the round of 16 at the Australian Open, and it gets difficult at the beginning, he’ll be around 100. He won’t even make it into all of the main competitions."
"Dominic Thiem sacrificed everything for the big goal that would happen at the US Open" - Thomas Muster
Thomas Muster had an unsuccessful stint as Dominic Thiem's coach, lasting just about two weeks in 2020. But the former World No. 1 is famous for his relentless fight to get to the top after a terrifying accident in 1989, where a drunk driver rammed into his car and left him out of action for nearly five months.
Muster's unwavering determination led to him becoming the first Austrian to win a Grand Slam, at Roland Garros 1995. He was considered nearly invincible on clay, and his preference for slower surfaces is another thing he has in common with Thiem.
During his recent interview, Thomas Muster also talked about Dominic Thiem's mental state after achieving the biggest goal of his career at the 2020 US Open. According to Muster, the increased expectations from fans since that triumph are bound to create more pressure on the 28-year-old.
"He sacrificed everything for the big goal that would happen at the US Open and not, as one could expect, at the French Open, which probably came as a surprise to him too," Muster said. "Suddenly he has achieved a career goal. On top of that, the expectations of the fans have increased enormously. That creates pressure."