Tennis

ATP Antwerp – Dominic Thiem, machine warming up: “In Australia it will be stronger than before”


It’s still in the shaking phase. When you win a Major (US Open 2020), do two Masters finals (2019 and 2020), a few more at the Grand Slams (Roland-Garros 2018 and 2019, Australian Open 2020) have reached the semi-finals of the ATP 250. it may seem a little ridiculous. But Dominic Thiem has come a long way. From far away. The player, who was away from all competitions for nine months (between June 2021 and March 2022) due to a right wrist injury, could not get rid of his doubts. So the significant progress he’s made in recent weeks has something to make him optimistic.

It must be said that beyond his long absence, the former world number 3 player has not experienced much gratifying recovery. Beaten for his comeback in the Challenger in Marbella at the end of March, he suffered the same fate in his next six matches on the track, an alarming knockout against Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the 1st round of Roland-Garros, followed by the 90th in the world. , in three straight sets (6-3, 6-2, 6-4). Overwhelmed, it was so painful to see Thiem at Simonne-Mathieu’s court that one might wonder whether his current boundaries were prohibitive in the long run.

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Working hard to reduce forehand anxiety

By his own admission, the Austrian was far off target. So he redoubled his efforts in training, taking advantage of the advice of his new physical trainer, Jez Green, who is known to have worked with Andy Murray before. The new member of the team also expressed the work he has undertaken for months in a forum published on the site tennishead.net. “Dominic had never developed a structured program to improve his fitness, as he worked with a former school coach. (Günter Bresnik, who left in 2019, Editor’s Note) And he did everything on the field. We changed this. We made science part of his curriculum, which he had never done before.‘, Green explained.

Thus, Thiem multiplied the sessions, whether in the gym or on the racket in hand. After Roland, it remained in the ground until the end of spring and the beginning of summer. First, because it’s its natural surface, it’s where it feels best, but also for a much more technical reason. “The ground was better for the shot he had to find: his forehand. He was injured from the front hit, so he needed to find this shot after the ligament was torn. In mustard, you have to speed up the ball. If you don’t, it won’t go anywhere. So we kept it on this surface“ further detailed the Austrian’s physical trainer.

The annoying question: will we ever see the “real” Dominic Thiem again?

Known for making an extraordinary number of spins on the ball, Thiem has always put too much strain on his wrist. Regaining confidence from this perspective is therefore essential for thinking back to the top. However, in the early matches of his comeback, anxiety was still evident. On the forehand side, Dominic Thiem had a lot of trouble with participation: The result was too much vulnerability in the trade to compete at the highest level.

More than 200 places reclaimed in four months

When he returned in July, the first step had been taken. A first in terms of results after tasting victory in the 1st round at the Challenger in Salzburg in Austria, he beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who was past the top 20 since his comeback, and reached the quarters in Bastad and Kitzbühel. as well as a half in Gstaad. Then, in terms of sensations, he felt that he was once again in a position to compete with his rivals.

He dropped to 352nd place in the world on June 13, regaining over a hundred places (211th) when he returned to Flushing Meadows at the end of August (for now) two years after winning his only Grand Slam there. ). And even though he was eliminated in the 1st round of this US Open 2022, his encouraging performance against Pablo Carreno Busta, the 15th player in the world (7-5, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3) in four sets, proved he was on the right track. showed. Then it was time to set goals again. And end of season, finding the top 100.

Carreno Busta avoids the Thiem trap: highlights

A Challenger final in Rennes kickstarted this final indoor sprint. And he took another big step forward in Gijon last week. In the sequences, “Dominator” sparks reappeared, impressing with his power and precision, especially in the 1st round against Joao Sousa (64th in the world), which he dealt like a puzzle (6-2, 6-0). “It was a great game. For the first time in years, I felt the right ratio between playing at the right pace with non-essential mistakes and being really aggressive. Especially on the forward side: He was really good, a first since my injury“He was also enthusiastic after the game.

Novak and Rafa don’t want to see Thiem again

Thiem is still struggling to replicate such flawless performance and failing to knock out the Top 10 (Editor’s note, Andrey Rublev stopped him 6-4, 6-4 at Gijon). But its average level has increased significantly. The quarterfinals against Francisco Cerundolo, a member of the Top 30, showed this. The Austrian, without being breathtaking, firmly dominated an opponent (6-4, 6-3) in Antwerp that he could also find in the second round. If he’s in the same mood as Gijon, there’s no reason not to hope for him again, at least in the quarterfinals. His return to the Top 100 would become even clearer as he had already moved up to 132nd place.

It would have been a symbolic step towards renewal, but most of all, it would have allowed it to directly integrate the Australian Open 2023 chart. But what if Thiem was the next Major’s X factor? Jez Green believes it. “Watching her workout right now, you can see that she’s just as good as before. He could best beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic when he was in flames two years ago. He was destined to be the next world No. 1 before he got injured.

And to add the physical trainer: “My eyes are already on Australia. Fresh, ready, well prepared and painless. I think it will be on another level in Melbourne with another big training block in November and December. He will have all his strength and will even be stronger and faster than before. We’ve worked hard on strength to make it more explosive. So I think it will change a little physically, maybe not dramatically. But people will say ‘She looks strong’. Believe me, Novak and Rafa don’t want to see a Dominic Thiem great again!“Competition is stimulated.

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