In 2014 as 20 year old Dominic Thiem spent most of his season battling through qualifying.
He began his year around 140 in the world and a few months later as he arrived in Madrid was up to 70. Qualification was still needed for the Masters 1000 at the Caja Magica.
Victories over Leonardo Mayer and Marinko Matosevic sent the Austrian into the main draw where he defeated Dmitry Tursunov in round before a meeting with Stan Wawrinka…
Stan completely blew Dominic away in the opening set, it was a perfect clay court performance. It had flair but a quick solution to rallies. Dominic for me was a little erratic in the set and pushed a little too much.
One thing I would say about Dominic Thiem in his career is that he is reactive. He reacts to things happening and I find it fascinating and a major part of his success so far how he reacts.
At times I have said unprepared in all honesty. There have been matches where I have felt a slight underpreparedness for what Thiem is facing but his ability to adapt to situations has been key to his growth. He may not always get the results but the intention is there!
Against Wawrinka in his Madrid debut year he did this from 1-6 down.
He sat back a little bit on the baseline and soaked up the momentum of Wawrinka’s backhand and used his slice to extend rallies.
In full flow it is quite a spectacle, seeing Dominic’s game ooze on this surface is a delight to watch.
His game is generated by raw power but also an unpredictability.
Dominic has never been a player to play it safe and for me in this performance in 2014 it served him well and you can see it in the backhand below.
I wrote a few paragraphs up about Dominic sitting back a little bit. Sitting back is fine but you have to find a way forward and he grinds at the Stan defence to the propel himself forward.
At this point in his career Dominic is less known as he is today but what backhand will he play? Safer backhand cross court with more court to aim for or the risk down the line?
Of course it’s the risk down the line but this is Dominic Thiem against probably the player with the best one handed backhand in tennis, fearless.
It oozed down the line and has done ever since, the injection of pace he generates sends it through the court like a bullet.
Dominic’s shots in this match were well disguised. You know what he wants but you can’t guarantee which way he will go and that’s key with the inside out forehand.
You can see below he’s found the position he wants.
All the power coming into the shot is coming through his legs and that important body rotation to whether he goes down the line with the forehand or cross court is key.
The margin for the shot is pretty much the same unlike the backhand which has more risk attached. Thiem is looking for that corner in both potential destinations for the forehand and to come in and potentially close at the net if required.
He goes cross court in this occasion and covers the net if Wawrinka did get it back over the net but the Swiss sent it straight into the net.
In both images you can see Wawrinka is neutral, he can’t commit and the level of tennis the Austrian brought to the match following his first set loss was exceptional!