Dominic Thiem's breakthrough 2020 season came to a disappointing end as he lost to Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-7 4-6 in the final of the Nitto ATP Finals 2020 on Sunday.
Following the defeat, the Austrian spoke to members of the media about his year, how he has dealt with various pressures during the course of the season, and men's tennis' fabled 'Big 4' - namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have dominated the men's tour for nearly 16 years now, with one of the four finishing at the top of the world rankings every single year since 2005. But World No. 3 Dominic Thiem believes that tennis fans need alternatives to cheer for after their retirement, which draws nearer with every season.
"I think it's super important for the sport because Roger, Rafa, Nole and even Andy did so much for tennis," said Dominic Thiem. "I think they brought so many people, and so many new fans to tennis. And as I said, there will come a time when they are not around anymore and we have to keep all the tennis fans."
The challenge is to perform well and become huge stars ourselves: Dominic Thiem
The 27-year-old, who recently won his first Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open, believes that the onus of keeping tennis fans engaged is on younger players like himself and Daniil Medvedev.
"I think that is the challenge. That we perform well, play great in the big tournaments, and become huge stars ourselves. It's super important for tennis in general, because they did so much for our sport. And as I said, our challenge is to is to keep all those people with tennis and continue their story," Thiem added.
The Austrian's comments are particularly relevant in the immediate aftermath of the ATP Finals, which has not seen a Big 4 member winning the title since Murray's triumph in 2016. Moreover, Thiem and Medvedev defeated both Djokovic and Nadal during the course of the 2020 tournament, signaling a wind of change in men's tennis.
Thiem had fallen just short at the Nitto ATP Finals last year as well, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the summit clash. In addition to reaching two consecutive finals at the season-ending event, the Austrian has also reached four Slam finals over the past three years (winning one).
During the same period, Roger Federer has reached two Slam finals (winning one), Rafael Nadal has reached five (winning four), and Novak Djokovic has reached six (winning five). It is clear that Dominic Thiem has started to match the Big 3 at going deep in the big tournaments, but he is nowhere close to their conversion rate.
That would be the next step for the Austrian if he wants to develop the kind of fan following that the Big 3 boast of.