World No. 3 Dominic Thiem recently spoke at length about the difficulties being faced by some of his peers who are under lockdown in Melbourne. Thiem believes that due to the tough restrictions imposed on the players from the COVID-infested flights, there is no longer a level playing field ahead of the Australian Open.
Dominic Thiem is currently in Adelaide along with other top stars like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. The US Open champion is expected to participate in an exhibition event on 29 January before flying to Melbourne for the Australian hardcourt campaign.
That is in sharp contrast to the 72 players from the charter flights that returned positive COVID-19 tests. Those players have been placed in total quarantine for 14 days in Melbourne, with no freedom to leave their hotel rooms for even a second.
In a recent interview, Dominic Thiem opined that the players limited to fitness work in their hotel rooms would struggle to maintain their shape. The Austrian pointed out that even if a player has done a lot of rigorous training during the off-season, it will all go down the drain in 14 days of quarantine.
"I think it's clear that there’s a complete inequality of opportunity," Dominic Thiem said. "All players are fresh out of their pre-season, they are in really good shape and have top fitness. If you can't leave your room for 14 days, it doesn't matter how much fitness you do in the room, a lot of it just goes away."
Thiem acknowledged that all the players were aware of the 'bitter' risks before flying out to Melbourne, but lamented the fact that those in lockdown would get only nine days to prepare for the Australian Open.
"But that's the risk we all took," he added. "It's very, very bitter and very, very unfortunate. For all other players in Melbourne, I think it's okay, they can train as it was planned. And unfortunately, those who are in hard quarantine will have nine days before the start of the Australian Open."
The 27-year-old mentioned that he himself has gotten accustomed to the rigors of life in quarantine, having taken part in several tournaments with such measures.
"It (life in quarantine) felt like a big change at the US Open, because it was the first tournament with a bubble," Thiem said. "But since then there was Paris, Vienna and London. The situation in Australia isn’t much worse."
My biggest goal is the French Open, Rafael Nadal is in a class of his own: Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem also touched upon the topic of the French Open during this interview. And naturally, the conversation eventually veered to the King of Clay - Rafael Nadal.
Thiem first revealed that winning the Roland Garros title remains his 'biggest goal' given his love for the event as well as for the surface.
"My biggest goal is the French Open," Thiem said. "It's always been the case this past few years. Because it remains the tournament I like the most and where the conditions suit me best. I played the final in 2011 as a junior. From that moment it became the tournament that I always wanted to win."
Dominic Thiem then proceeded to shower lavish praise on Rafael Nadal, who has thwarted the Austrian four times (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019) in Paris. The 27-year-old admitted that he has very little confidence of beating Nadal at Roland Garros.
"He (Rafael Nadal) is a class of his own and I don't know if I trust myself to do it," Thiem added. "I never managed to beat him there. At other tournaments, I’m confident because I’ve already done it but beating him on his center-court is probably one of the hardest challenge in sport."
Dominic Thiem also made a mention of Rafael Nadal's staggering record in Paris, where he has lost just twice in 16 years. The Austrian asserted that Nadal will remain the French Open favorite for the foreseeable future.
"Only two players have managed to defeat him in 16 years which is an insane statistic. I think that he will still be the undisputed favorite and the strongest player in Paris for another year or two.