With his semifinal appearance at the French Open, Dominic Thiem‘s rise has reached its preliminary peak. His run at Roland Garros propelled him into the Top 10 for the first time in his career, becoming Austria’s third pro to reach the elite 10 of the tour after Thomas Muster and Jürgen Melzer. On Tuesday, the 22-year-old sat down with the press at the Gerry Weber Open to talk about what has been a whirlwind season full of strong results, including his first grass court title in Stuttgart on Monday.
With each passing week, Dominic Thiem checks off box after box in his tennis development — and while he’s flying high, he’s not losing sight of the big picture.
“I feel unbelievable. It is extremely difficult to make it to the Top 10. You need so many points and good results,” a happy and relaxed Thiem said during his press conference in Halle on Tuesday afternoon.
The Austrian comes into the Gerry Weber Open behind a whirlwind — in 48 hours, he won his fourth title of the year, defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the final of Stuttgart and got on and off court his first match in Halle, joining up with the German for doubles but suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of Lukasz Kubot and Alexander Peya after holding four match points.
Despite the loss, however, Thiem was in a good mood — and he had every right to be after his past four weeks, which saw him defend his title in Nice on clay, make the semifinals at the French Open and capture his first title on the grass at the Mercedes Cup.
“I think it was one of the happiest moments in my tennis life so far. I really went to Stuttgart without any expectations and didn’t have a lot of time to prepare,” the No. 3 seed said, as he looked back at the past week.Embed from Getty Images
“It is really great to have won four difficult matches and, of course, the victory of the semi-finals against [Roger] Federer which I wouldn’t have thought of in my wildest dreams — then the very difficult final over two days. So, it really took a huge weight off my mind after winning the match point. I actually had intended a relaxed week, maybe with one match and then to prepare for the following weeks and that’s how I went into the matches — okay, except for the final.
“By then, I absolutely wanted to win the final and did feel a bit of pressure — but until then, I took it really easy. I think I rarely had as much fun during the matches as I had last week.”
Maybe it was the fun and the relaxed approach that was necessary for the Austrian to finally come to terms with the grass — a surface that had been a real thorn in his side in 2015, when he won only two matches while suffering four defeats. Thiem’s big cuts at the ball and his occasional deep court positioning are tailor-made for the heavier clay courts in Europe, but it wasn’t until last week that he really looked at ease and at home on the grass courts.Embed from Getty Images
With his full on schedule, it’s only natural to assume that the Austrian might feel the repercussions of his heavy workload at some point, but despite patchy moments in some of his matches over the course of the past weeks, Thiem says he’s yet to feel the effects physically — particularly as the grass allows for some shorter points and tends to be less taxing than some of the long clay battles he fought in recent months.
“Grass is completely different. The clay court season was tiring but grass demands other things. The ball doesn’t bounce as high, therefore it is a bit easier but, then, other areas are affected. At some point, I will take a break for a week, but at the moment I feel good physically,” the World No. 7 laughed. “So, everything is going well!”Embed from Getty Images
While others might take more time to reflect a big breakout run at a Grand Slam, Thiem’s quick turnaround from playing Novak Djokovic on the last Friday of Roland Garros to playing in Stuttgart a few days later cut the time to evaluated his big run — or relishing the increased level of attention in his home country — short. Nonetheless, it seems like the Austrian is all too happy not to take too many trips down the French Open memory lane and continue driving down the road ahead of him, almost with the blinders on.
“I flew home on Saturday and actually went to the mountains, stayed there Saturday and Sunday and then flew to Stuttgart on Monday. So, I haven’t really been at home but maybe that is also better. I had my peace and quiet, recovered well during the one and a half days and was fresh for Stuttgart.”
“In general, I don’t need that much time in order to reflect on everything. It’s in the past. I can’t change anything. Of course, I am happy with how things went, but I don’t really need time to think. I’m more focused on the future than on the past weeks.”Embed from Getty Images
In his opening round match in Halle, Thiem will face Portugal’s Joao Sousa, who he’s defeated four times in five meetings. While the Austrian has faced the Portuguese plenty of times the past two years, it will be their first encounter on grass. The No. 3 seed at the Gerry Weber Open might be the on-paper favorite, but he’s aware than the World No. 30 could prove to be a tricky opening match.
“I think it’s our sixth or seventh match tomorrow,” Thiem said. “I believe he is the guy I have played most often so far — but not yet on grass, therefore tomorrow is going to be completely different. I played him on hard court, clay and indoors but not on grass. I think the chances are 50-50 and you can’t really consider the previous matches. Grass is completely different.”
The entire interview can be found on the Gerry Weber Open website.