Misc Tennis

A brand new theme began with Thiem. Or did it?

Storm Sanders was Australia’s hero after she won the first singles rubber before returning for the deciding doubles match alongside 38-year-old Samantha Stosur.

Past perfect, present tense: Thiem served a warning to the elite club with his New York run in the leap year (2020), but he has failed to sustain the momentum due to injuries, loss of form and motivation.
| Photo Credit: AFP

When Dominic Thiem won the 2020 US Open, tennis’ Wheel of Life had seemingly course-corrected. After more than three years’ utter domination by the legendary, but ageing, trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — they had swept the previous 13 Majors — it appeared that the old had given way to the new. Before Thiem, one had to travel back six long years for a first-time Slam winner – Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open.

It didn’t matter that the tournament was wrecked by Covid and was played in the soul-shattering atmosphere of a bio-bubble. An injured Federer had by then shut down his season and Nadal didn’t take the trouble to cross the Atlantic amidst severe travel restrictions. Djokovic entered New York, but was disqualified for accidentally striking a lineswoman with the ball during his fourth-round match.

This meant the competition provided the first glimpse of how men’s tennis could shape up in the absence of the ‘Big Three’. Thiem, ranked No. 3 in the world, led the mid-card, also comprising Alexander Zverev (the vanquished finalist), Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and was the first to break through. That he had already reached three Grand Slam finals (2018 & 2019 French Open, 2020 Australian Open) and beaten the top stars consistently made his ascent unsurprising.

A struggle

Two years and eight months since that victorious September Sunday, Thiem is a shadow of his former self. He hasn’t added a single Tour-level trophy to his collection, has struggled with injuries, lost form and motivation, and plummeted in the rankings.

The nadir came in June 2022 when he suffered seven straight first-round losses and slipped to as low as No. 352.

The Austrian, who will turn 30 this September, has inched his way back into the top-100, but the tennis world of today is drastically different to the one he once inhabited. Not one but two other players — Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz — have won their first Majors and subsequently scaled the pinnacle of the ATP rankings. The likes of Jannik Sinner are waiting to stake claim, making Thiem’s climb back to the top arduous.

Thiem’s fall has been astonishing to say the least. Injuries in this era of tennis are par for the course, but Thiem’s style…

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