As the tennis world came to terms with Rafael Nadal announcing his absence from this year’s French Open, there was a certain irony about the identity of the man who directly benefitted from his withdrawal.
Next in line in the rankings, moving up into the space left in the men’s singles draw by the Spanish great, was Dominic Thiem.
In 2019, when Thiem lost for the second year running to Nadal in the Roland Garros final, it felt inevitable the Austrian would get his hands on the Coupe des Mousquetaires one day.
Four years later, Thiem has still not won the one major trophy which many thought he was destined to do.
Winning his first Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open has been the pinnacle of an enviable career that took Thiem to number three in the world.
Less than a year later, his journey was derailed by a wrist injury which kept him off the ATP Tour for 10 months and resulted in his ranking plummeting to outside the top 350 last year.
“It was difficult for me to cope with – and unusual – because it was the first time I had been out injured for a long time,” Thiem, who is back up to 91st in the rankings, told BBC Sport.
“In the first 10 weeks I was in a cast so couldn’t do anything anyway – and then the struggles started when I began to play again.
“It was so tough because before I was used to ripping the ball, I was used to using the wrist at full power and the whole body at full power, and then it was just not possible.
“My mind wanted to play full power. The body wouldn’t allow it.”
The excoriating style which led to Thiem’s success – raw power generated through the wrist on both his forehand and one-handed backhand – took its toll on his body.
So did his eagerness to play as much as possible. Thiem became known for his hectic and heavy scheduling, conceding now that his previous workload had contributed to the problems.
“I was always very lucky with my body because I was pushing it to the limit almost every day when I was young,” he said.
“Because of all those strokes I did in my career up to then, it was inevitable something was going to happen at one point.
“Now everything is well and the body feels great.”
The road back towards the top of the ATP Tour has been long and arduous.
Being unable to execute the aggressive shot-making for which he had become feared left Thiem lacking trust in his technique.
On his return to the tour in March 2022, Thiem lost his…
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