Could Dominic Thiem Be The Next World #1?

Dominic Thiem with the Adria Tour trophy
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World #3 Dominic Thiem, aged 26, has secured 16 titles so far in his career, including the Indian Wells Masters. He has also shown that he can match the very best in the sport, having picked up wins over the Big Three of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Indeed, before their Australian Open final, which Djokovic won narrowly in five sets, the Serbian spoke highly of Thiem, noting that ‘Dominic won our last match we played against each other, a close one in London’.

Djokovic went on to say that ‘[Thiem] played a terrific match against Rafa. I watched that. Definitely one of the best players in the world’. Djokovic was certainly correct in his estimation. After all, he has tasted defeat in four of his eleven meetings with the Austrian, including twice at Roland Garros, as well as at the Monte Carlo Masters and, as mentioned above, at the ATP Finals in London. Thiem also boasts a fine record against Federer, leading their head-to-head 5-2.

In fact, Thiem won all three of their matches in 2019, including in the final in Indian Wells and has picked up victories over the Swiss on all three surfaces, a remarkable achievement for a player still considered by many to be a clay-court specialist. But Thiem will surely leave that particular tag behind sooner rather than later, having shown that he is a versatile player who can play on all surfaces. His results on hard courts over the past 18 months have been particularly impressive.

But one rather suspects that the player Thiem enjoys beating the most is Nadal. It is, after all, Nadal who Thiem is seeking to topple from his clay-court throne. But whilst he has made some impressive in-roads against the great Spaniard, beating him five times, including three times on clay and at the Australian Open earlier this season, Nadal has had the better of their rivalry. Crucially, Thiem has not yet beaten Nadal at Roland Garros, losing two finals and one semifinal to the Spaniard in the last three years.

Nonetheless, there is a growing sense that Thiem’s time is coming. Although he is too old to truly rank amongst the ‘Next Generation’ – the Austrian turned pro nearly a decade ago in 2011 – he has also achieved significantly more than that cadre of young guns. Thiem’s appearance in the Australian Open final marked the third time he had reached that stage at a Grand Slam and he is currently the youngest man to have played in a Major final.

He has still struggled somewhat for consistency, losing in the first round at both Wimbledon and the US Open last season after a bout of illness over the summer. Nor, despite his win at the 2016 Stuttgart Open, where he beat Federer in the semifinals, does he look entirely comfortable playing on grass. Indeed, it is not a coincidence that Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam where he has not yet passed the fourth round.

But Thiem undeniably has a lot of upside and plenty still to offer. At 26, his best years are almost certainly ahead of him and he has already compiled a very impressive resume. There are not many who have beaten Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, let alone more than once. He has also shown a commendable drive to improve, one that will surely stand him in good stead in his quest to unseat the dominant trio that currently rule the men’s game.

Thiem has already demonstrated that he has the poise and talent to establish himself as a great player. He boasts formidable power off both the forehand and backhand side and is also one of the best movers in the game, particularly on his favoured clay, as well as an increasingly effective server. And, perhaps most importantly, he has demonstrated an increasing belief in his abilities. When Thiem steps on to court, it now seems that he believes not only that he can beat anyone, but that he should.

Really, the only question of him now is just how far can he go? Do not be surprised if it is all the way to the #1 ranking.

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