It took him four Grand Slam finals, but the ATP’s heir apparent finally broke through with a win in New York last year. What Dominic Thiem didn’t do was beat any of the Big 3 on his way to the title. That means he, and the generation he leads, will need to cross one more bridge in Melbourne. At some point, with Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini all in the Top 10, they’ll get there.
Could it happen now? Federer will be vulnerable because he’s just returning to the tour. Nadal will be semi-vulnerable because this is a hard-court event. But knocking off Djokovic Down Under may be the second-tallest order in tennis. Thiem almost scaled that mountain at the Aussie Open in 2020, but the climb won’t be any less steep in 2021.