Where now for Dominic Thiem- 2018 preview ?
Dominic Thiem has been a professional tennis player for 6 seasons now. In that time he has made steady progress up the rankings ladder and has been an established member of the top 20 for a couple of seasons. He was won 8 career titles on clay, hard court and grass and made the season ending ATP World Tour Finals for two years in succession. He has done remarkably well but few commentators predict the Austrian to rise further. But why?
Early on in 2015 Thiem seemed to be playing every week. One week Rotterdam indoor hard the next Buenos Aires outdoor clay. He enjoyed some success in 2015 and rocketed up the rankings due to the number of events he was playing rather than his consistent success on tour. By summer 2015 Thiem was burnt out, too many miles on the clock, jaded and faded his performances dropped off dramatically. He knew it too. It was then when Thiem tried to taper back his schedule in an attempt to peak at the right time in the biggest events.
2016 saw an improvement, Thiem continued to win more tournaments and was in better condition physically for the biggest events. He was still playing far too many tournaments and in 2017 played 30 events in the year. Two and a half events per month. In 2018 he will play three events in February alone. This is still much more than the top players. Federer and Nadal play 13-17 events per year. A pattern has emerged in the career of Thiem. He seems to love playing on the clay which is testament to his tournament victories on the surface. He even made a Masters 1000 Series Final in Madrid and followed this up with a semi-final appearance in Paris at Roland Garros.
Sadly 2017 somewhat petered out after the French Open. Thiem only won a handful of matches between the US Open and the season ending World Tour Finals. There didn’t progress to the semis but will be happy with his victory in the round robin and narrow loss to eventual winner Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov is an undeniable talent but for some reason is unable to peak as other top players can peak at the biggest events.
Thiem is at home on the clay courts. His flat powerful shots and his natural deep positioning enable him to move his opponents left to right, back and forth and the clay allows him to achieve this. His game is less effective on the hard court or grass. His opponents try and cage Thiem on the baseline to prevent him getting the ankles or launching into a groundstroke winner. Thiem also has very fast long strokes, lovely to look at but his timing can be upset with balls to his body which jam him up so to speak. On skiddy grass courts you can take away Dominic’s time by using slice to keep the ball low.
Although Thiem can defeat most players on tour with his game his record against fellow top players is not as good as it should be and this is because he is easily read. Thiem with his coach must develop a plan B. Many players can only dream of the power that Thiem generates on his groundstrokes. Without doubt he is the hardest hitting player on tour but he stands so far behind the baseline that a lot of that power dissipates before it hurts his opponents. Commentators have been longing Thiem to step up onto the baseline for years now. With a more aggressive position Thiem can do the dictating rather than be dictated too.
In the off season Thiem needs to sit down with his team and work out what tournaments he is likely to be successful at in 2018. He then needs to rationalise the schedule to ensure he is prime form for the bigger events. 30 tournaments is enough for anyone, too much in fact. He then needs to develop a plan B and learn to win with a serve and volley type game or alternative tactic to make himself more difficult to beat. Thiem can be a factor in Melbourne and will be expected to go at least to the 4th round down under. Just how far he goes will be down to how much he is prepared to leave his comfort zone.