Thiem’s big step could unlock more of his potential – Eye of the Coach #19

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou thinks that Dominic Thiem’s US Open triumph will make him a better player on the biggest stages moving forward.

September 17, 2020
The figures

In episode #19 of Eye of the Coach, Patrick Mouratglou speaks about how winning a first Grand Slam title can help Dominic Thiem grow his confidence and unlock his vast potential at the Grand Slams, even when he encounters the big three. 

“I think it’s a big difference for him now,” says Mouratoglou. “I think for his confidence, also for his confidence when he’s going to play those guys in the majors, he knows he can do it, he knows he can win a Slam.” 

Mouratoglou says that a switch has been activated, and we should expect a different Dominic Thiem at the majors from this point forward. 

“I’m sure that the fact that he has won a Grand Slam will make a switch in his head, and in the future it might change the outcome of the matches in the big stages of the Grand Slams against the big players,” he said. “The [US Open final] showed how much he cared, how important it was for him, and how much winning a final of a Grand Slam was such a heavy thing for him. And I feel like now that he has won, he’s going to be relieved and he’s going to play more freely and that’s why I think he’s going to be much more dangerous in the Grand Slams against the Top 3.” 

Roland-Garros will be wide open on the men’s side 

For years we have known that Rafael Nadal, the 12-time champion, was the alpha dog in Paris and that it would take a miracle to defeat him. This year, says Mouratoglou, a lot of circumstances could make for a chaotic French Open. 

“I think it’s the most open Roland-Garros for an extremely long time,” he said. “I feel that this year, Rafa cannot be in the same shape as every year because he has not played much. If he wins Rome, then it’s going to be much better for him. But if he doesn’t win then it’s going to be extremely open.” 

Rafael Nadal félicite Novak Djokovic après sa victoire en quart de finale à Roland Garros en 2015Mouratoglou thinks that Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic are in prime position to go for the title in Paris.

“I think that we have two guys that can beat [Nadal], which was never the case before,” he said. “The first one is Novak, because I think that Novak is playing the best tennis of his career at the moment, he’s beaten Rafa several times on clay, many times actually, even though in Roland-Garros has always been a different story, but he has beaten him so many times and he’s very confident and Rafa is coming to Roland-Garros with only a few matches. And then we have of course Dominic Thiem, who is an incredible clay-court player, who has a lot of matches behind him. He has so many matches under his belt so he’s really extremely confident, with winning the US Open, and with a lot of matches, and physically extremely ready.” 

Better to have skipped the US Open or played it? 

Which players could benefit when Roland-Garros begins: the players who travelled for the US Open and competed or the players who stayed in Europe and practised on the clay? 

“I would always go for the competition,” Mouratoglou says. “Because you can train as hard as you want, playing a match is a completely different effort and your body reacts very differently and is extremely sore and it’s an incredible effort for the body.

“You can practice as much as you want, playing a match is a completely difficult thing. I think it’s really, really difficult to start a Grand Slam with no competition. Now all those players will have some because they’re playing Rome, so they will have some, but not much, and it’s definitely a burden.” 

Mouratoglou adds that the “natural” clay-courters are likely to have a better time making the transition from hard courts to clay. 

“Some types of games adapt to clay very fast,” he says. “Some other kinds of players have more difficulty because of their game style. So for those that have played well at the US Open and are natural clay-court players, for them I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. For the other ones? More.” 

Rafael Nadal holding the French Open trophy in 2008

Roland-Garros in October? 

How will the different time slot, and the cooler conditions that come with it, affect the run of play in Paris? Expect the unexpected, says Mouratoglou. 

“The conditions will be completely different because of the dates of Roland-Garros,” he says. “The temperature will be lower, it’s going to be more humid, so the balls will be less lively than usual. And for Rafa’s topspin it’s also going to be more challenging.” 

Mouratoglou says that the king of clay will have his work cut out for him this year in Paris. He will not have many of those hot, sunny days that he loves. 

“One of the reasons that he is the ultimate clay-court player is because of the quality of his topspin, which is so different to control,” he says. “It’s difficult to control because it’s explosive, and the ball is so explosive also because the courts are fast.” 

Mouratoglou believes that this year Roland-Garros will be full of surprises. At the moment, it’s hard to tell how it will all play out. But he likes the chances of Djokovic and Thiem to possibly contend with Rafa. 

“It makes it more interesting because for the last fifteen [years] there was not so much suspense at the start of the tournament, I think this year we are going to have a lot of surprises,” he said. “The preparation of the players is completely different, the weather conditions make this tournament a different tournament entirely, and we have two players that are at the top of their games, Dominic Thiem and Novak.” 

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