If a casual tennis fan, or even a more passionate fan, was asked who the wins leader on the ATP tour is in 2016, they would almost surely say Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. Few would correctly say Dominic Thiem, who in fact is leading this season in wins with 48, over 46 for Djokovic. Thiem also sits in second this season for overall titles with four, trailing only Djokovic. Thiem’s stellar year was fairly unexpected, being only 22 years old and ranked at 20th to begin 2016. Thiem has dominated on his favorite surface clay, winning two titles and making an additional final. He has also won both a hard court and a grass court tournament, and has not had an easy road to these titles, beating one of the greatest ever on grass Roger Federer on his way to the Stuttgart title, and beating the 9-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal on clay on his way to winning in Buenos Aires. Thiem’s true breakthrough was at the French Open, when he reached the semifinal after never previously getting past the round of 16 at a major. This result jumped him to a career high 7th in the rankings and put him in the spotlight for the rest of the year.
Thiem ran into his first big defeat at this year’s Wimbledon, losing in 3 tiebreaks to Jiri Vesely in the second round. ATP rankings points place a heavy emphasis on Major performance, so as much as the French Open success helped, the Wimbledon defeat was a setback, especially with his new status as a top 10 player. Thiem fell two spots in the rankings to 9th, falling behind Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych. He is still very much in striking distance, but the rest of the season is very hard court heavy, which will be tougher for him, with only a few tournaments on clay.
However, Thiem’s outlook for London still looks promising. First, even given his strong end to the 2015 season, he has less points to protect than top-10 players who are used to being in the quarterfinals and semifinals in every tournament they play in. Given the structure of ATP rankings as the results of the past 52 weeks, a quarterfinal appearance for Thiem helps him more than a player who consistently made most quarterfinals and semifinals last year. In addition, many players in front of Thiem are on the decline. Berdych is 30 years old and Stan Wawrinka is 31 and both are not in the form that they were in in the past several years. In addition, Roger Federer has had his season hampered by injuries and simply being 34 years old, an age few tennis players even step on the court, much less compete at a high level. As crazy as it sounds, Federer has earned the 9th most points this season and is on pace to miss the world tour finals.
Thiem has a very realistic and arguably likely chance at finishing the season in the top 8 and heading to London for the Tour Finals at the year’s end. If he keeps playing at the level he has he is almost a lock, but he will have a long road ahead of him with four Masters 1000 tournaments and the US Open. In conclusion, it’s far from a guarantee he will make it especially after Wimbledon, but he is young and improving and we should expect to see him finish the year strong against the best in London.