Roland Garros 2021: 3 talking points from Dominic Thiem's loss to Pablo Andujar

Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem was handed a shock defeat by Pablo Andujar in his Roland Garros first-round match on Sunday. Thiem led by two sets to love but then suffered a remarkable capitulation to lose 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 4-6.

The Austrian seemed on course for a regulation win when he led by a couple of sets on the back of some fine claycourt tennis. Andujar, however, had other ideas, and he mounted a comeback for the ages to register the biggest Slam win of his career.

Here are the three most significant talking points from the unexpected result on the very first day of the claycourt Slam:

#1 Dominic Thiem's physicality and mentality are not back to their usual level yet

Before this loss, Dominic Thiem was 49-1 in matches when leading by two sets to love. His only loss in such a scenario came at the 2017 US Open, against Juan Martin del Potro.

More pertinently though, Thiem played some good tennis for two and a half sets on Sunday and looked set to cruise home in straight sets. But he collapsed in the face of Pablo Andujar's resolute display, much to everyone's surprise.

It's not that Dominic Thiem has lost his ability to strike the ball or play his brand of brutal tennis; he did plenty of that against Andujar. The Austrian's main problem, which came to the fore as the match progressed, is that he cannot sustain his level for long periods.

Pablo Andujar made Dominic Thiem pay for his errors
Pablo Andujar made Dominic Thiem pay for his errors

There were several moments when Thiem tried to go for the jugular but ended up making costly errors. And there were others when he couldn't finish points as efficiently as he should have.

The 27-year-old racked up a whopping 61 unforced errors in the match, and more than half of them came in the final three sets.

In the all-important deciding set, Dominic Thiem found only 10 winners while coughing up 14 unforced errors. The big moments got to him, and he lacked conviction when playing his usual bread-and-butter shots.

#2 The longer the rallies went, the worse Dominic Thiem fared

Dominic Thiem in action at the 2021 French Open
Dominic Thiem in action at the 2021 French Open

Dominic Thiem is renowned for his ability to absorb the toughest of blows, especially on clay. But the Austrian's defensive ability and movement weren't quite up to the mark on Sunday.

The 27-year-old preferred to keep the points short, and he won 101 rallies that had fewer than four shots. But as the rallies got longer, Thiem's legs deserted him, and so did his ball-striking ability.

In rallies with 5-8 shots, Thiem managed to win on just 45 occasions compared to Andujar's 55. And when the rallies went beyond nine shots, the Austrian managed to win just 21 while the Spaniard bagged 27.

#3 Even if Dominic Thiem had won, he wouldn't have been a top contender for the title

Dominic Thiem has arguably been the second-best claycourter in recent years behind Rafael Nadal. His reputation was largely what put him in the list of favorites for this year's French Open.

But even if Thiem had managed to stave off Andujar's comeback and come through, he would have been unlikely to go far. The Austrian just hasn't been his usual self for much of 2021, and his lack of match practice would have played a big role against higher quality opposition.

Thiem, who is renowned for his second serve, won a meager 34% of the points played on that shot. That gave Andujar plenty of chances to break, and the Spaniard took them gleefully.

Given that he couldn't protect his serve against Andujar, Thiem would have likely faced a very tough time against quality returners like Casper Ruud and Fabio Fognini in the subsequent rounds.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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