A Noteworthy Year for Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem would have preferred to still be in New York. As the fourth seed at the United States Open, Thiem was expecting to stick around at least until the second week of the last major of the year.

But, felled by a virus that forced him to withdraw from a warm-up tournament in Cincinnati, Thiem, whose nickname is Domi, lost in the first round at the Open to the 87th-ranked Thomas Fabbiano of Italy. Two days later, he was back home in Vienna, seeing doctors and resting.

Thiem, 26, returns to play for the European team in the Laver Cup in Geneva alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Fabio Fognini. Team World features John Isner, Milos Raonic, Taylor Fritz (in for the injured Kevin Anderson), Nick Kyrgios, Denis Shapovalov and Jack Sock.

In March, Thiem defeated Raonic and Federer to win his first ATP Masters 1000 crown in Indian Wells, Calif., then upset Nadal and Daniil Medvedev to win the Barcelona Open. In May, he knocked out the No. 1, Novak Djokovic, to reach his second consecutive French Open final before losing, again, to Nadal.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed.

There has been so much talk about the Big Four — including Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, all in their 30s — and you’ve been in the mix for a long time. Does that hang like an albatross around your neck?

It doesn’t hang heavy around my neck because I feel pretty privileged to be playing with these guys. I’m in a great situation because I get to play and compete against them now, and then I will still be around when they are no longer playing. So, I have the best of both worlds. And sometimes I beat them. That’s the best part.

ImageThiem with Roger Federer at the BNP Paribas Open in March. Thiem said he has learned a lot by playing on Federer’s Laver Cup team.
CreditMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

What’s it like to turn the tables at the Laver Cup and now be teammates with Federer and Nadal?

Being on a team once in a while is special. We tennis players are all year long doing an individual sport. We travel alone, for the most part train alone and then compete alone. So when we have the chance to have this team atmosphere, and with these guys, it really is special.

Do you learn anything, technically or tactically, from Roger, Rafa or Novak?

You learn a lot from them. Just the way they approach their tennis, how much hard work they put in before, during and after a match. Also, how they analyze their opponent’s tactics and when to use them during a match. What’s also nice is how much they help you during the Laver Cup matches, which they wouldn’t do on the tour. They all offer tactics and coaching suggestions. Especially Roger, he’s great that way.

You played, and won, your first Laver Cup match against John Isner in Prague two years ago. What was that like?

That was the first year, and nobody knew what to expect. The atmosphere was just incredible. It was sold out for every match, and everyone was cheering so loud that we couldn’t even hear each other. And just being in the locker room with those guys was really fun.

What was said in the locker room?

Oh, there was a lot said in there, but that should all stay in the locker room.

You are known for your intense fitness regimen. Does that make it that much harder to take care of illness or injury?

Every single guy in the top 100 or in a Grand Slam main draw is so fit. They can run for five hours. So, if you lose 10 or 20 percent, there is no way you can beat these guys.

CreditFelipe Dana/Associated Press

Your gliding one-handed backhand is envied by almost every player in the game. Was it always so natural?

I was 12 years old, and my coach, Günter Bresnik, decided that I should change my backhand from two hands to one. It suits me because it gives me a lot of power, the ball travels quickly, and I can also slice the ball low over the net. I think I’ve done pretty well with it.

You’ve been dating Kristina Mladenovic, who plays on the W.T.A. Tour. Do you talk tennis all the time?

We do talk about tennis. It’s the subject we know best. We probably talk about tennis more than anything else. We both train and work very hard, and it’s nice for us to be able to share winning and losing together.

Source: NYT

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