When we talk about the players who have been most impressive this year, we talk about the likes of Roger Federer, Caroline Wozniacki, and Simona Halep. No one mentions Dominic Thiem despite his relatively successful start to the season.
Although he has played in three tournaments and a Davis Cup tie, the Austrian has only been defeated once, and that was a shock defeat to Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open. Thiem started the year playing great hard court tennis in Doha before he was forced to withdraw from the semifinals. Since his defeat to Sandgren, the Austrian has won seven matches in a row in Davis Cup, Buenos Aires, and Rio.
Thiem’s efforts this year see him ranked at #6 in the ATP Race to London and it looks like he will be featuring at the O2 Arena for the third straight year. We are all aware of the saying “you can only beat who is in front of you,” but it is worth noting that Adrian Mannarino (ranked #27 at the time) is the highest ranked player Thiem has played so far this year.
Buenos Aires Champion
The Argentina Open is where Thiem really announced himself onto the world stage. It was in 2016 where he saved a match point to defeat Rafael Nadal on his way to the title and it seems those fond memories helped the Austrian in this years’ edition of the event. Thiem looked dominant throughout the week as he eased to a ninth career title and seventh on his beloved clay.
Thiem surely has to be the favourite to defend his Rio Open title and continue his hot “Golden Swing” form. Marin Cilic, Gael Monfils, and Pablo Carreno Busta look like his biggest threats to the title but Thiem is still the massive favourite. Cilic has not got the greatest clay court pedigree, Monfils got crushed by Thiem last week, and Carreno Busta has not been in the best of form lately. Could it be title #10 for the Austrian?
Like Rafael Nadal, Thiem is a player who needs matches to help him play his best and his heavy schedule suggests that. He needs to create momentum and that is what Thiem is doing right now by playing these lower level clay court tournaments. The European clay court season is the most important period of the calendar for the world #6 and he definitely wants to generate some serious momentum before then.
As mentioned so many times, the Austrian is arguably the second best clay court player in the world, and he could perhaps win a maiden Grand Slam title this year at Roland Garros. We are unsure on the fitness of Nadal and Djokovic; and it seems that Murray and Federer will skip the French Open so it is well within the realms of possibility. What we do know is that Dominic Thiem is silently enjoying a great start to the 2018 tennis season.