Over the next two weeks, the first serve series will be previewing our top male and female players and top returnees as we build up to the first grand slam of the year. We’ll analyze what they’ve got going for them and what they need to do to be successful in 2018.
Dominic Thiem comes into the 2018 season, with a lot of questions hanging over him and he has to work through the season, finding out the answers. He has been left behind a little by a few of his peers, most notably Zverev, and Dimitrov. Now that Kyrgios looks focused again, he just might be left behind by him too.
The last we saw of Thiem in 2017, he was packing his bags and leaving the World Tour Finals after failing to qualify from the group stage. In that tournament, Thiem had looked like a shadow of himself, visibly unable to produce his best tennis due to burnout. Thiem started 2018 by reaching the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open, before retiring before his match against eventual champion, Gael Monfils. However you want to look at it, retiring before a match in your first tournament of the season, shows you are not doing something right.
For Thiem, this is his overloaded schedule which he has stuck to for the past three years. Either no one on his team is telling him, or he is refusing to listen to reason. Whatever the case may be, Thiem must now realize that quality, not quantity, is going to get him to the summit of the game. This translates to the number of tournaments he plays and how he plays the game. For all of his natural gifts and talents, Dominic Thiem plays a baseline game of attrition. He prefers to stay back deep in the court and uncork topspin shot after topspin shot until his opponent snaps under the repeated barrage. Unfortunately for Thiem, it is a double-edged sword, particularly when done over say… twenty plus tournaments. This is because this game of attrition slowly breaks down Thiem as well. He would be wise to pay attention to the recent spate of injuries plaguing the game, particularly the men’s game.
Does Thiem not trust his own talent enough to believe he can climb up the rankings on a reduced schedule? I think his main focus this year should be staying healthy, picking his tournaments wisely and going for them. He should also look past the clay court season. His game can be lethal on any surface so I see no reason why he should sparkle in the dirt and lose his shine everywhere else.
Thiem is currently ranked number five and he goes into the Australian Open with minimal preparations. A second week showing should be a good start to the season. If Thiem slows down and then tries to peak for the Sunshine Double thereafter, I know he has learned his lesson.