Dominic Thiem happens to be among the very few tennis players across the world to have played any kind of tennis in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But even he hasn't had much joy with no crowds to cheer him on, and has now said he is eagerly waiting for normal tennis to resume - with the fans in attendance.
Thiem's home country of Austria is reported to have had a total of 17,048 confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 1,000 cases still active as on 13 June, but that didn't stop the World No. 3 from doing what he loves the most. The Austrian tennis authorities saw fit to host an exhibition tournament in the country a couple of weeks ago, and Thiem was one of the first to sign up.
The 26-year-old participated in the Austrian Pro Series, playing a total of seven matches between 27 May and 8 June. However, due to the COVID-19 scare still being prevalent in Austria, the tournament took place with strict hygiene restrictions and in front of empty stands.
In a recent Q&A session with Babolat that took place on the Stories section of the company's Instagram handle, Dominic Thiem revealed that playing behind closed doors is not quite what he is used to.
It's a big part of the game: Dominic Thiem on fan presence in tennis
During the Q&A, the 26-year-old was asked what it feels like to play high-quality tennis without any fans. Thiem replied:
"Of course, something is missing. It is big part of the game and it is a big part of sports. One of the best things that I have experienced is to play in front of a full stadium with a full atmosphere."
Dominic Thiem was also asked about his preparation for the Austrian Pro Series, and whether he had been allowed to train on the court before it began.
"Luckily we were allowed to practise for 3-4 weeks before the tournament started," Thiem said. "I think we are privileged in Austria, it was one of the first countries (to open up for professional tennis)."
On the return of competitive tennis, the Austrian said: "I'm really happy that tennis is back and super happy that the organisers of this tournament gave us this chance to play competitive tennis again."
Dominic Thiem further went on to talk about the surface on which he feels most comfortable playing.
"My favourite surface is still clay," the Austrian said. "I grew up on it. In Austria we mainly have clay courts so from a very young age I was playing on clay both indoors and outdoors. I feel at home on that surface."
Dominic Thiem and his packed schedule
Dominic Thiem has a jam-packed schedule planned for the next few months. First, he is due to participate in the Novak Djokovic-led Adria Tour of exhibition tournaments across the Balkan region this month, along with the likes of Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov. Shortly after that Thiem will return to Austria for the final phase of the Austria Pro Series.
The World No. 3 is also set to participate in the innovative Ultimate Tennis Showdown event in France which features the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas. After a short break, Thiem will then play in his own exhibition tournament called "Thiem's 7", to be held in Kitzbuhel from July 7-11.
Dominic Thiem is set to face Damian Dzumhur in the first round of exhibitions at the Adria tour on Saturday, 13 June.Published 13 Jun 2020, 19:12 IST