Thiem Refreshingly Honest About Sabbatical

Dominic Thiem (photo: @MutuaMadridOpen/Twitter)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 6, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

As World No. 4 and third seed Dominic Thiem readies to play his third-round match in the ATP Masters 1000 Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday against No. 24 Alex de Minaur of Australia, the Austrian spoke with the media both at the beginning of the week and after his 6-1, 6-3, second-round win against Marcos Giron of the United States on Tuesday.

When Thiem arrived in Madrid, he admitted the break he had from mid-March after losing in the second round at Dubai to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris was a good one and needed, too. “But now it’s also time to be back,” he said. “I think Madrid is a great place for me. I have only good memories to that tournament.

“Conditions are amazing for my game. The results were always so good in the past years. I’m happy to be back here and hope that I can also play well.”

Thiem, who came into this week with a 13-4 lifetime record in Madrid, reached consecutive finals in 2017 and 2018 and was a semifinalist in 2019, the last year the tournament was held before returning this year following last year’s cancellation.

Thiem was asked on Tuesday during a virtual press conference if his break from tennis helped him, and if he’s fresher now to play and to create the intensity that his game needs to win in important moments. He said:

“Yes, 100 percent. As I said before, everybody is different. Every player and every character is different. But me, for my game, I need 100 percent intensity and 100 percent energy. I’m not the guy who can serve through a match or who can play with a little bit intensity and is still winning.

“You know, I’m just not that type of guy. I need 100 percent in every aspect of my game.

“I was just not able to put that on court like in Doha, Dubai, or toward the end of the Australian Open. So, that’s why it was better to take a break. Better to come back when it’s possible again to play with that 100 percent in every aspect of my game. That’s also the goal for the future, to really play only tournaments where I’m ready 100 percent to compete.”

While the clay season is where Thiem always sets high expectations for himself – and has done very well in recent years – he was asked if he’s lowered his expectations because of his sabbatical.

“Well, there were times in March where I was really feeling bad in general,” Thiem said. “Even then, I mean, I had in the back of my head the big goal of Roland Garros. That’s still where my expectations are, are very high about. That’s where I want to be at the top of my game again.”

It’s at Roland Garros that Thiem has enjoyed a remarkable run that dates back to 2016. In the past five years, he’s been a quarterfinalist or better, including twice being a finalist in 2018 and 2019, both times losing to Rafael Nadal in the title match.

“Here in Madrid, honestly, two weeks ago I was not sure if I’m playing here. So, the expectations are still super low,” Thiem admitted. “A win like [Tuesday against Giron] is already a big success, because I get a chance to play another match in a top level. So, that will help me again for the next weeks.

“But, well, here the expectations are super low, and I’m going to hopefully raise them from tournament to tournament.”

Thursday’s Mutua Madrid order of play

Ashleigh Barty and Petra Kvitova: A sense of mutual admiration

Barbora Strycova: Thanks’s for the memories