Patience the key for Thiem turnaround

 - Alex Sharp

The two-time Roland-Garros finalist continues to search for a match-win this season.

Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros 2022, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Dominic Thiem is well aware he’s on a long road back to the upper echelons of the game. 

The 2020 US Open champion, a Roland-Garros finalist in 2018 and 2019, had been within striking distance of another Grand Slam title.

However, a right wrist tear sidelined the Austrian for 10 months from last June, dismantling all his progress and belief.

Without a win since Rome 2021 a year ago, Thiem has now fallen at the first hurdle for the second successive season at Roland-Garros. On Sunday, world No.87 Hugo Dellien had all the answers to nullify the former world No.3 with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Patience is the buzzword.

“I knew that it's going to take time, that the level is extremely high from all the players competing here and I'm not there yet,” admitted Thiem, now on a run of 10 consecutive defeats.

“I have to accept it and even though it was a really painful defeat, week after week, still nothing unexpected happened. If I would have won many matches or whatever, it would have been a big surprise. So it's painful, I'm very disappointed, but it goes on.”

Dominic Thiem, First Round, Roland-Garros 2022Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Working things out

Fortunately, the 28-year-old avoided surgery and is playing pain free with “zero physical issues,” but even going back to basics, practice isn’t providing the platform for success.

“It's also not the greatest feeling to go in a Grand Slam match or ATP match knowing in the back of the head that things are not perfect in practice,” continued the current world No.194.

“So I cannot expect that it happens in the game. The first step is going to be that it's working day-to-day perfectly in practice and then try to make the transition into the game.”

Thiem is convinced that there is a multitude of factors contributing to his winless run.

Dominic Thiem, Hugo Dellien, Roland Garros 2022, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

“I'm obviously a little bit more tight, more nervous and right now that's toxic to my forehand because I'm still missing the fine feeling there, I'm missing it a lot,” continued the Austrian, who couldn’t chalk up a single break point against Dellien’s delivery.

“But I'm not missing one specific thing, [there are] many things actually. Obviously, there's not enough power yet in my shots and it's not only the forehand, I have way too low percentage of first serve, the first serve is not hurting enough.

“The backhand is okay, but as well it's not long enough, it's not fast enough. Then sometimes I do really stupid decisions during the rally, drop shots or down the line at the wrong moment and then also match situations I'm not playing well, where I'm thinking, ‘what the heck is happening?’

“It is what it is and it's going to take time until it's fine again.”

Dominic Thiem, Roland Garros 2022, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

'I need a few more months'

Tried and tested methods that have reaped so much success for Thiem in the past will remain as he outlines his vision for the near future.

“I'm not doing anything different in training. I think that's the key. It's time to do the same again to get back on track,” insisted the 28-year-old, who has only been able to practise fully in the last seven weeks.

“It's just not enough time, especially for the injury I had.

“The key is just to be patient, work on the stuff which is not working and then it will come back, but I think it's going to take a few more months until I can really say, okay, now I'm ready to beat those top guys again.”

A step down to the Challenger tour awaits Thiem, who has received a wildcard into a tournament in Perugia, Italy, next week.

“Of course a match win would help a lot, but if I'm honest to myself, in all the matches I played, I'm still pretty far away from a win,” he admits.

“I just need to try to find the confidence and the shots back also in tight situations like matches.”