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A refreshing Dominic Thiem for the tennis world

It’s fairly unbelievable that in a virus-curtailed tennis calendar—it noticed loads of tournaments being shelved, together with a Grand Slam in Wimbledon—Dominic Thiem discovered the time, area and wherewithal to demand the reformation of the Large 4 membership. It is usually fairly unbelievable that he did this regardless of dropping extra huge finals (the Australian Open in January and the ATP Tour Finals in London on Sunday) than he received—the US Open in September.

However view this prism from Thiem’s line-of-sight and it turns into evident how, in 2020, he made a transfer that many had promised however none had pulled off in a protracted, very long time—that of going from best-of-the-rest to a potential nice. With Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer nonetheless related in Melbourne originally of the yr, Thiem made his first Slam ultimate exterior of Paris, beating Nadal alongside the way in which and dropping solely to Djokovic in 5 draining units.

Then he pressured his manner into the second Sunday on the US Open, a floor so unsuited to his slow-court abilities that within the tune-up occasion in New York, he misplaced within the first spherical to a person who’s but to win an ATP title in Filip Krajinovic. But, there he was in the course of an empty Arthur Ashe Stadium three brief weeks later, profitable his first Slam ultimate in 4 makes an attempt.

And Thiem would’ve made a greater case for himself than a quarterfinal exit on the French Open—a event the place he had made heads flip within the first place by reaching the ultimate within the final two years—had it not been held in an alien month, instantly on the again of his bruising US Open marketing campaign.

“It has been an impressive yr,” Thiem stated on Sunday after dropping the ultimate match of the tennis season to Daniil Medvedev, the second consecutive yr he has fallen simply wanting the ATP Tour Finals trophy. “I’ve reached certainly one of my huge lifetime targets with profitable that Grand Slam. So although it’s a troublesome yr, it should at all times have a particular place in my coronary heart, hundred %.”

A HALLMARK OF HOPE

The panorama of tennis has been suffering from false hope over the previous couple of years, and the winners of the final 4 ATP Tour Finals have been emblematic of that delusion. Grigor Dimitrov, champion in 2017, is but to make a Grand Slam ultimate, fairly like 2019’s winner in Stefanos Tsitsipas. Whereas 2018 and 2020’s year-end winners, Alexander Zverev and Medvedev, have reached one every. Thiem, alternatively, has made 4 (similar as Stan Wawrinka) on three completely different surfaces.

When the Austrian made his first French Open semifinal in 2016, his defining traits have been his scything single-handed backhand and the flexibility to pound the ball tougher than it had ever been hit on the circuit. At this time, the hallmark of his sport is hope—not simply as a future star, however in matches {that a} lesser participant would take into account a misplaced trigger. Particularly in a misplaced trigger.

No participant earlier than Thiem had made a fist of an Australian Open ultimate after Djokovic had received the primary set. Bear in mind the 2019 version when the Serb rapidly wrapped up the primary set towards Nadal and went on to provide him all of 1 level on serve within the second? Actually, earlier than 2020, Djokovic had misplaced all of 1 set in a Melbourne ultimate after profitable the primary set. Till Thiem got here again to win units two and three this yr and ended up stretching and troubling Djokovic for 4 hours.

This newfound never-give-up perspective was raised to its optimum restrict within the US Open ultimate when he fought again from two units and a break down towards Zverev. The German then had the championship on his racquet at 5-Three within the fifth, however Thiem merely refused to roll over and limped his strategy to a miraculous turnaround, the primary of its type in New York in 71 years.

“I hope that everyone in my household, particularly my grandparents, made it properly by means of the match. It couldn’t have been simple for them for positive, so I hope they’re all advantageous,” he stated on the Flushing Meadows trophy ceremony and laughed. The well-being of his grandparents would maybe have been on his thoughts final week as properly, when he rallied again from 0-Four down towards Djokovic within the ultimate tiebreak of the semifinal.

“I assumed that after my first huge title in New York, possibly I’m going to be a bit of extra calm on court docket,” he stated after making his second straight ultimate within the London year-ender. “However I assume that was a mistake. I used to be simply as nervous as earlier than.”

These nerves, nonetheless, are a very good factor; a telltale signal {that a} participant is hungry for greater than he has already achieved.

They held Thiem in good stead to turn into the primary man in his twenties to win a Grand Slam since Andy Murray in 2016, and the youngest since Juan Martin del Potro in 2009. In 2021, his nearest rivals in Federer, Nadal and Djokovic flip 40, 35 and 34 respectively. Thiem, who turns 28 solely throughout the defence of his US Open title, is by far the youngest amongst his new equals.

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