Five titles, including his first Masters 1000, ensured the Austrian powerhouse had his best season ever. Thiem has been a building force for a few years, but this year with his new coach Nicolas Massu took the next step. In another lifetime this would have taken him to number 1, but with arguably the three best still playing well, 4th was the highest-ranking available for mere mortals. He was unfortunate to be ill at the US Open where I thought he could have won it. The way that tournament evolved, I think he would have beaten Nadal.
Having just turned 26, Thiem is now in his prime and still possesses more room for improvement. We should see him competing for top billing next year.
Giving my opinion on Dominic is easy. Here is why: power, resolve, mature, impressive. He ticks a lot of boxes for me.
Power: Hits it hard on both sides. His backhand is a Stanimalesque (a word I just made up) sledgehammer, and his forehand is fearsome.
Resolve: He has developed a steely edge to his game now. He can handle adversity and fight back and not get down on himself. This improvement has seen him able to fight back more often, which is a crucial ingredient if you are going to maintain a high ranking. A great example is his come back from a set down at Indian Wells against a flowing Fed.
Mature: To be clear, he doesn’t have dickhead moments. He has his head screwed on right and seems a friendly, well mannered and respectful young man.
Impressive: All of the above makes him impressive on and off the court. He is a player for whom I make time to watch and follow closer than most.
My likes and dislikes:
Likes: The ripping backhand, kick- serve, newfound patience and willingness to use the cross-court slice (seems to have been a focus coming from Massu) to wait for the right ball to rip. That he is coming forward more to finish points at the net. That he goes for it often, but smart enough to leave some margin for error. When he beats Djokovic or Nadal.
Dislikes: When he beats Federer. When he plays too deep (does seem to be addressing this though).
Areas for improvement: Volleys need work, and his backhand is technically not as sound as Stanimals but could get there. I recommend he spend more time on grass if he wants to do well at Wimbledon. Homework is to watch the Stan backhand and Federer volleys on YouTube. These two improvements would put less stress on his shoulder and allow him to finish points quicker. Long matches winning the hard way have been a problem in the past.