In 2018 Dominic Thiem played 74 matches ending the season with a win/loss of 54/20 which isn’t that bad at all.
In these 74 matches he lost the first set 29 times during the year and only went on to win 10 of those matches so there is a big problem there.
Earlier on in the year I saw him play in Monte-Carlo and he was down a set 5-7 to Andrey Rublev and he made a drastic change.
Thiem was returning second serve at almost 4 metres behind the baseline and first serve just over 3 metres behind the baseline. He turned it around.
He went 1.8m forward on the second in set 2 and 2.14 on the first.
Image Credit – Sky Sports
He knew a change was needed.
I totally get hanging around on a clay court and being a little bit more defensive as you have time. Rublev played an aggressive game so it wasn’t really working for Thiem who knew he had to up his aggression level.
So, I want to know why does he continue to revert back?
I look at his defeats this year and pick a handful;
Verdasco 4-6 0-6 H
Del Potro 2-6 6-7 H
Nadal 0-6 2-6 C
Tsitsipas 3-6 2-6 C
Zverev 4-6 4-6 C
Nadal 4-6 3-6 2-6 C
Tsitsipas 3-6 6-7 H
Nishikori 3-6 1-6 H
Khachanov 4-6 1-6 H
Aggressive players and in all honesty all one-sided matched. His top 20 record for 2018 is 10 wins and 9 defeats!
From hard to clay courts there is an issue with being competitive and it begins with how he returns serve.
He idolises his clay court game on Nadal but we can all dream and want to play like he does but he is a different animal.
Thiem is a top 10 player but if I look at tournaments for 90% of the year do I include him as a contender? No. This way of returning serve and setting up his shop if you like works on the clay courts to a limit but on hard courts it’s bizarre.
I believe Thiem next year should be contending at these hard court events as well. I have no doubt he will do well at Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome and Paris but I want to see him being a threat elsewhere!
Digging deeper into his hard court returns I found something which stood out to me.
At 40-40 in rallies when returning serve he only returned 1 point in the deep part of the serve’s court but won 12/22 points.
At 40-Adv opponents serve out-wide as because of how far back he stands he isn’t as effective winning 1/7 points.
On the Deuce side when returning on hard courts he has a better chance as he can unleash the backhand or run around the forehand winning 47 of 76 points but on the Ad side he is less effective winning 60 of 126 points.
Thiem knows what is needed to be better but doing it seems to be the challenge and I don’t know why. Is it a stubbornness but then if it is you have to question what does he want and what is his goal?