"This is a major title. It's just the highest thing that you can achieve in tennis."
Just a handful of players have been able to notch multiple wins against the Big 3 of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Dominic Thiem is one of them.
Thiem’s journey to the exclusive Grand Slam club began in 2011 when a teen ranked No. 918 made his ATP Tour debut on home soil in Kitzbuhel.
It didn’t take long before he established himself on the tour.
In 2015, he went on a major tear, capturing his first three titles in Nice, Umag and Gstaad (all on clay). That same year, he also reached his first Masters 1000 quarterfinals in Miami and broke into the Top 20 for the first time.
“It’s something really, really special,” Thiem said of his Nice victory. “I think it doesn’t matter which age, but I’m happy that I made it at a quite a young age. It was a perfect week for me, and I’m happy that I won the title in a really, really good final.”
In 2018, the Austrian hit yet another milestone when he made his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, losing to Rafael Nadal. The following season, he lifted five more trophies—including his maiden Masters 1000 in Indian Wells after a come-from-behind win over Federer in the final—tying with Novak Djokovic for the most tour-level titles in 2019. He also returned to the French Open final, where he fell to Nadal again. Five months later at the year-end ATP Finals, he notched wins over Djokovic and Federer en route to the championship match.
"It's unreal," said Thiem after his Indian Wells triumph. "It's a pleasure to compete against Roger in this great final. I lost my last two Masters 1000 finals, but I won this one and it feels as nice as a Grand Slam.”
Little did he know he would experience that feeling in 2020.
A month after the tours resumed from a long COVID-induced hiatus, Thiem became the first man in the Open Era to win the US Open from two sets down, getting past Alexander Zverev—2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6)—in the fan-less final.
“It's always in your head. Is this chance ever coming back again? This, that, all these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free,” Thiem said. “That's what exactly happened in the beginning. Luckily then things changed in the third set. At the end was complete open match, 50/50.”
Ranking-wise, Thiem achieved a rare feat in March of 2020 when he passed Federer to set a new career-high of No. 3, becoming just the 10th player to accomplish that.
Despite his uncharacteristic slow start to this season, there’s still a lot of tennis to be played, which is why the Austrian decided to take a mental break before heading to Paris for the French Open.
"For 15 years, I chased the big goal and didn't look left or right," Thiem told Der Standard of his maiden major victory. "I achieved it under unusual circumstances, but that's not that important to me. In a way, some things fell by the wayside... There was only tennis. I want to change that a little."
Whether or not he adds more titles to his tally of 17, 27-year-old Thiem already has the resume of an overachiever.
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