Take a pulverising single handed backhand and a strong forehand. Add heavy ground strokes along with brilliant defence. Combine it with a powerful kick serve and an aggressive baseline game.
Result? A Dominic Thiem is born.
His recent run to the Round of 16 at the French Open is commendable. It is quite possible that he might make his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, if he manages to beat Marcel Granollers. He has slowly been rising to the challenge of the top order. A very strong form has worked wonders for young Austrian. And it’s not just on the Parisian clay, but Thiem has been playing some phenomenal tennis on clay for quite some time now. His results are getting better every time.
It all began with his famous victory against Stan Wawrinka at the 2014 Madrid Masters. About two months after that, he made his first final at the Bet-at-Home Open, where he fell to fellow young gun, David Goffin. In mid-2015, Thiem made another final on Clay in Nice, France. This time he won the trophy. In this memorable week, he beat quality opponents like Kyrgios, Gulbis, and Isner. He had decent runs in on non clay court tournaments as well.
Things went upwards for him thereafter. He played the Umag Open and won his second career title. He turned one set deficit against Gael Monfils in the semifinals and thrashed Joao Sousa in the final. The next week he climbed a notch higher as he claimed one more trophy on clay, in Gstaad. He trumped Feliciano Lopez and Goffin in the semifinals and final, respectively. And some more good results after the clay double meant that Thiem would break into the the top 20 for the first time.
In February this year, Thiem broke into a much bigger scene. He contested in the Argentina Open and registered the biggest win of his career in the semifinals. He beat the King of Clay–Rafael Nadal–saving one match point. After the win Thiem admitted to have given his best by trying to keep rallies as short as possible and playing strong on big points. And in the final he beat Nico Almagro in three sets, whose strongest surface is clay.
Next he played Rio Open where he lost in the semifinals to Guido Pella in straight sets. But in the quarterfinals he beat a great clay courter, David Ferrer, in straight sets.
Right after Rio, he played and won the title on the hard courts of Acapulco. He had cracked into the top 15 in rankings by then and soon he reached a career high ranking of 13. After Acapulco he played in Indian Wells and Miami. He lost to Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic respectively, in Rounds of 16. After that commenced the clay court swing. He played five tournaments before the start of the French Open.
He began by reaching the quarterfinals at Monte Carlo Masters. He lost to Nadal as he saw himself blow a lot of break points. He managed to give the Mallorcan a tough time but lost in straights.
Next he played the Munich Open and lost to Phillip Kohlschreiber in the final. After this loss, Thiem was surprisingly tossed out in the opening round at Madrid Masters to Juan Martin Del Potro in straight sets. He rolled into Rome Masters, hoping to increase his level. And he registered yet another big win against a seemingly ill Roger Federer in straight sets, in the Round of 16. In his quarterfinal, he played against Kei Nishikori and failed to win against him.
Finally, in his last tournament before Roland Garros, Thiem won all his matches and lifted his second title in Nice, sixth overall. He beat good friend Alexander Zverev in the finals.
And taking reference from his wins at the French Open, it seems like this man has a lot of potential in him. With Nadal and Tsonga having withdrawn, this is a huge chance for Thiem to prove his flair, there’s no stage bigger than the French Open to do it, since it seems like he is made for the surface.
Thiem has reached right finals to date. He has won six of them and five of those were played on clay. His style of play has generated this success on his favorite surface. Being an aggressive baseliner with heavy groundstrokes, topspin serves, and a lethal single-handed backhand has largely benefitted him. His athleticism, power, and good footwork complete his game.
He stands at the 6th spot in the Race to London and it is highly likely that he will make the final cut. He has maintained a 39-10 win loss record(including the French Open wins) and has won three titles five months. Seems like his eyes are firmly set at the top spot.
Could he be the next King of Clay in the making? That undoubtedly is a long shot for now. If Thiem maintains his current level and keeps getting better, he certainly will be winning big very soon.
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