Fresh from chilly training on home soil in Austria, Dominic Thiem is formulating his game plan Down Under in order to start his 2021 campaign with another explosive start.
Thiem targets “biggest goal” to rule Roland-Garros in 2021
The two-time finalist is determined to accomplish his dream to win the tournament with a special place in his heart.
With memories flooding back from Flushing Meadows, the world No.3 is now an immediate name on the ‘contenders list’, a major player in the upper echelons of the men’s game.
“What are my expectations for this year? First, I will work at a training camp in Adelaide with Novak (Djokovic) and Rafa (Nadal) to fine-tune my tennis, at the ATP-Cup I want to boost my self-confidence,” Thiem wrote on his website.
“For the beginning of the season I must be at 100%. I clearly proved last year that I like the conditions in Melbourne. My wish for 2021 is to win a second Major title, of course.”
Rewind a season and Thiem narrowly missed out at Melbourne Park, picking up the runner’s up silverware following a pulsating finale defeat to Djokovic.
By September 2020, the Austrian was US Open champion, a Grand Slam winner, admitting a “huge relief” at joining the pantheon of tennis greats.
However, there is one particular prize, located in Paris, that Thiem is devoted to lifting.
“For me the biggest goal is Roland-Garros. That has always been the case in recent years. Because it's still the tournament that I love most, where the conditions are best for me,” declared Thiem, speaking to Sportschau.
“I played the final as a junior back in 2011 (lost to Bjorn Fratangelo). And since that moment it's the tournament that I've always wanted to win.”
His Roland-Garros main draw debut in 2014 was halted by Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. 2016, a surge to the semi-finals was emphatically ended by Djokovic in straight sets. 2017, Nadal again, straight sets again.
2018 and 2019 represented true progress. Both editions of Roland-Garros Thiem toppled an array of world class talent to reach the final on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Just one match from his ultimate glory.
The 2018 final, a dominant Nadal brushed Thiem (in his maiden major final) aside in straight sets once again.
The 2019 showdown, despite a grueling five-set triumph over Djokovic in the semi-finals, Thiem mustered up the force to pinch a set off Nadal. The Spaniard ruled again.
Over to the Autumnal edition of Roland-Garros 2020, an exhausted Thiem succumbed to Diego Schwartzman in the last eight. You know the story; the King of Clay disintegrated the field to grasp the Coupe des Mousquetaires a 13th time.
“He's overpowering and I don't know if I think I can,” mused Thiem, whether he can outmaneuver Nadal at Roland-Garros.
“I've never managed to beat him in the tournament. In every other tournament, yes, because I've already made it, and beating him on this centre court is probably one of the hardest things that has ever been in sport. But still: It's my big goal and I'll try again in 2021.”
Thiem isn’t shying away from this colossal challenge. He’s been close and has strong grounds for turning the tables in 2021.
"I go into every tournament and want to win it"
At the ATP Finals in November, the world No.3 stated, “Definitely one of the better matches I have played in my career,” after a hot-shot medley 7-6(7), 7-6(4) victory over Nadal.
Right, so it wasn’t on clay.
Thiem has the blue print (4-8 in their clay head-to-head). It’s a negative record, but the Austrian knows he has the on-court artillery, he has the mental knowhow to step over the finishing line.
Of course, it isn’t that simple, but Thiem at full-throttle is unplayable. Nadal in top gear, unplayable. Just imagine their Roland-Garros final if possible this season.
Defeating Djokovic and Nadal at the ATP Finals provides a platform for Thiem heading into this season. That platform was built several stories courtesy of this US Open triumph.
It was a real signal to his peers and a revitalised Thiem will be expected to charge towards the closing stages in Melbourne next month.
“I definitely want to win the tournament. I go into every tournament and want to win it,” continued the defiant 27-year-old, speaking ahead of the Australian Open.
“In the match itself, I haven't loosened up because I won a Grand Slam. I'm just as nervous as before. That won't change until the end of my career. But I also know that if I play well and am well prepared, my chances of going far are good.”
His chances of going far in Melbourne are understated as “good.” Thiem’s chances of going far at Roland-Garros are exceptionally good.