June 14, 2019
Dominic Thiem is going places
He says so himself. You don’t beat Novak Djokovic in a Grand Slam semi-final without getting pretty good at what you do. But can Dominic go deep at Wimbledon? Can he make a big impression on the grass this year, at long last? Thiem thinks this could be his time.
‘I’ve had my best year so far, for sure. I have won Indian Wells, Barcelona, and made the Roland Garros final again. So, I’m on the right way.
‘I think that I’ve developed my game. I was closer to winning (the French) than last year.’
It hasn’t yet been the happiest of hunting grounds for the ambitious Austrian, though. He has only once been past the second round in five visits. But Dominic believes the statistics are misleading and there has been progression. He made the fourth round the year before last, something easily overlooked. And he had to retire during his opener against Marcos Baghdatis last summer. So he could hardly be judged on that tournament.
‘At that time I was slightly injured and had to give up in the first round,’ he explained. ‘Now I see good chances to get relatively far. ‘
Wimbledon is special, it is the most prestigious tournament in the world. I want to show myself better than last year.’
That shouldn’t be hard. But will he make the second week and then really start to threaten the established favourites? Some players just don’t thrive on grass. Stan Wawrinka has won every other Slam but hasn’t come close to winning Wimbledon.
Simona Halep usually struggles in south-west London, too. But it may be dangerously premature to put Thiem in that category of grass-court under-achievers. For a start, he is right about his game. It has indeed progressed, even in the last twelve months. It is more complete. With mind and body in a good place, there is no reason why he couldn’t do well at Wimbledon 2019.
Thiem has matured into a more aggressive player
Thiem is happy in himself but has more edge at the same time. Much of that could be down to his relationship with Kristina “Kiki” Mladenovic. She won the women’s doubles at Roland Garros with Timea Babos and is now the best doubles player in the world. When your romantic partner brings home winner’s trophies, you want more than a runner’s up trophy yourself. This undoubtedly provides added motivation for Dominic, especially since the loving couple do seem determined to maintain a high, joint profile. Therefore they almost invite comparisons between their respective achievements on court. The pair constantly post photographs of themselves on Twitter, most recently with their silverware. They seem to be urging each other on towards even greater things.
Thiem won’t want to settle for second best
Admirable as his two successive Roland Garros finals have been. Maybe he is slowly realising that the younger generation has shown too much respect to the Big Three of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, who always win the Slams and shut out the youngsters. His girlfriend doesn’t always buy into that unquestioning respect. Not if it means you can’t challenge the status quo and say what you think. Mladenovic was pictured unashamedly trying to hurry up Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Sure, she paid tribute to Rafa and his stellar career on social media later But she had been part of the fight to bring him down.
Thiem and company appear to be sending a message to the golden oldies: “Enough is enough. It’s our turn now.”
As for Thiem, he initially dared to criticise the legendary Serena Williams when he came under pressure to move or cut short his press conference earlier in the tournament. The 25-year-old later decided the post-match chaos hadn’t actually been Serena’s fault and has even offered to ‘make amends’ by playing mixed doubles with her at Wimbledon. But there could be an interesting pattern emerging here.
Let’s see how Thiem goes on the glorious lawns. He has pulled out of a warm-up tournament at Halle in order to recharge the batteries. After the extreme physical demands of Paris, that is probably wise. As long as it leads to sparks flying in the first fortnight of July.
The “Dominator” hasn’t dominated many rivals at Wimbledon yet. But he is the oldest and best of the “young punks” on recent form. He doesn’t want to wait any more.
So Wimbledon 2019 might just be a different story for the intriguing Dominic Thiem.
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Featured image credited to Thiem_RG_2019©si.robi