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Improving Thiem eyes return to the top

The former world No 3 believes he can reclaim his best form after two years in the wilderness due to injury

Dominic Thiem AO 2023 Imago / Panoramic

Dominic Thiem is not giving up any time soon.

The Austrian won the US Open in 2020 and the thought of living such moments again keeps him going now that he is 99th in the world as he recovers full fitness and confidence after a couple of years in the wilderness due to injury and a loss of motivation.

“I still believe. I am not there yet, but that is the reason why I keep playing, to be competitive at that level once again,” Thiem told Croatian Nova TV ahead of Austria’s Davis Cup tie with Croatia.

Thiem gaining momentum at last

After winning the US Open in 2020 in what was his fourth Grand Slam final, Thiem took time off to recharge his batteries and recover from knee trouble. But a right wrist injury saw him miss the second half of 2021.

When he returned, with a slightly altered forehand because of the wrist injury, he struggled for confidence. It was only in late 2022 that he started to gain some momentum and despite an early loss to Andrey Rublev in round one at the Australian Open, when he had a minor injury, his belief is rising.

“It was obviously a very tough draw, I had a small injury as well, but now I am healthy,” the 29-year old said.

“I was very happy to be at the Australian Open again. I have played the biggest finals against greatest players, so that is a huge motivation to try to be in that position again. Let’s see if I can make it. In the latter stages of 2022, I found my rhythm, there have been some wins and some positive signs, so I hope that I can keep going in that direction.”

Thiem reflects on early slam final losses

Thiem played against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final 2020, as well as against Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final 2019.

“At the time of the Australian Open final, I was at the peak of my abilities – physically and tennis-wise,” he said. “And I still lost in five sets to Novak. I almost could not have played any better and I still lost. That says it all. With Rafa at Paris in 2019, I was playing great too. Not as well as in Australia, but my level was high. But the two of them are almost invincible at their favourite tournaments.”

Djokovic Australian Open 2020 Thiem
Thiem poses with his runner-up trophy at the Australian Open in 2020

Thiem on Djokovic: “We have to be honest, he is the best”

Djokovic won his 22nd Grand Slam title in Melbourne, equalling Nadal’s men’s all-time record.

“I am not very surprised, because Djokovic still feels like he is young. Physically, mentally and the way he is moving on the court, it’s like he is 25 years old. We have to be honest – he is the best, so his victory wasn’t very surprising.”

And asked what should be the defining criteria when it comes to determining the greatest of all time (GOAT), Thiem said: “In my opinion, Grand Slam titles, because those are the four biggest tournaments in tennis. Everything else is nice, but it’s just not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Slam titles.”

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