Dominic Thiem’s 3-6 6-1 7-6(5) defeat of Emil Ruusuvuori at the Swedish Open in Bastad on 12 July was no ordinary victory for the Austrian. It was his first in an ATP Tour match in 14 months, fully 426 days after his last. It came just a few days after he scored his first win of any description of 2022, against the world No. 210, his compatriot Filip Misolic, in the first round of a Challenger event in Salzburg.
Thiem grateful to be back to winning ways
Sidelined with injury for many months and out of form since making his return in the spring, Dominic Thiem has been rediscovering his touch on clay this summer.
“The win felt very good and it was much needed,” the two-time Roland-Garros runner-up told ATPTour.com a few days ago. “The ATP Challenger event in Salzburg the week before was also a step in the right direction, with a win there and with a tight loss in the next round. I felt there was a big improvement compared to Roland-Garros [where Thiem lost in straight sets to Hugo Dellien in the first round] and the other tournaments.”
Thiem followed up that first-round win in Bastad with victory over world No. 20 Roberto Bautista Agut, before going on to lose in the next round to the eventual runner-up Sebastian Baez, ranked 34th in the world.
Thiem’s mini run in Sweden has instilled him with the belief he can slowly but surely recapture his best form, which had taken him to 17 Tour titles, including a Grand Slam event, and third place in the world rankings.
“Two very good wins against two Top 50 opponents is very good and amazing for my confidence. It is way more fun to win some matches and build some momentum and confidence, and that is exactly what I am going to take forward.”
Injury woes and comeback blues
The 2020 US Open champion has had a long journey to make since retiring against Adrian Mannarino in Mallorca in June 2021 with an injury to his right wrist. Out of action for the rest of the season, he was unable to defend his title that September in New York and had to undergo many long months of treatment and recovery.
The layoff tested his patience, as did his return to action in Marbella this spring, when he was beaten in the first round of a Challenger event by Pedro Cachin. Worse was to come when he suffered six consecutive defeats on the ATP Tour between Belgrade and Roland-Garros.
“In the spring it was not easy to stay positive as I lost one match after another,” he said. “Also, the way I played, I felt it was not enough for the level of those guys. I went into those matches with the knowledge that I am not even able to win, so that was very difficult. Mentally it was not easy. After Roland-Garros, I sat down with my team and said I needed another training block to get back to the basics and get somewhere close to my old level. Now it is getting nicer again. It was not that nice in the spring. It is very tough if you lose and go to the practice court for five days and then the next match you lose again. It is very tough.”
A fresh start
“I feel now a bit like I did at the beginning of my career, where every win was something very special. I reached the quarter-finals in Bastad at an ATP 250 and it feels huge to me. It was similar at the start of my career. When you are used to going deep, a match win is not as special anymore. But that is not the way it should be. The level is so high, all the players are playing so well, so every match win should be special and that is how I am feeling again now.
“I am a player who always needs a little time after such a long time off,” he added. “Even after the off-season, I need some matches to get my anticipation back, and footwork, and then I was out for one year, so all of that suffered a lot. I also didn’t have more than one match a week, so it was impossible to improve. It was a bad time, but I'm pleased I am out of it. The main goal is to regain my best level by the end of the season, to think I am able to win against any opponent. That is not going to happen now or probably by the US Open, but by the end of the year, that is the goal.”
The latest stage in Thiem’s return to form has come at the Swiss Open in Gstaad, where the current world No. 274 ground out a 1-6 6-1 7-6(7) over Hugo Gaston. The Austrian will now face Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in the round of 16 on Wednesday afternoon.