At 4-6 6-4 6-2 Dominic Thiem was a set of tennis away from creating history.
A set of tennis against Novak Djokovic on a court he has never lost on in a Grand Slam semi-final or final is a difficult quest and one which is still unsolved.
Dominic Thiem is now a three time runner-up in a Grand Slam following his five set defeat to Novak Djokovic but there has been significant process.
Back to back semi-finals followed by back to back final appearances in the French capital for Dominic Thiem who is itching to go one step closer.
As I write this we don’t know what will happen next, when will tennis resume but when it does I think Dominic will be ready.
I was interested by something Sascha Zverev said on social media during the lockdown. He said that the more experienced players would be more ready than the less experienced after lockdown but is that entirely accurate? Rafa said he hadn’t picked up a racket since Indian Wells in his Instagram Live with Federer. Sascha also said you will be able to see who didn’t work hard during this break period and for me Dominic seems so locked in with what he wants I imagine he will be raring to go.
He has adapted the pedigree to defeat the best on big stages. Thiem has beaten Novak Djokovic twice at Roland Garros including in five sets last year and has beaten Rafael Nadal in four consecutive years on a clay court:
2016 – Buenos Aires – Semi Final – 6-4 4-6 7-6
2017 – Rome Masters – Quarter Final – 6-4 6-4
2018 – Madrid Masters – Quarter Final – 7-5 6-3
2019 – Barcelona Open – Semi Final – 6-4 6-4
Three straight sets wins is impressive but he has never until the Australian Open this year beaten Nadal at a Grand Slam.
7-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 against the then world number one is a big milestone in that future quest to win at Roland Garros.
Winning a Grand Slam match on hard to clay is a different kettle of fish. Thiem has Djokovic where he wants him on clay as we have seen in Paris but Djokovic on a hard court is a different animal as is Rafa on a clay court.
Outside the top two I wouldn’t really use the word ‘favourite’ right now but with 22 wins in his last 26 and his record against the top two/three improving he will soon have his moment.
I think his game is in as strong a place as it has ever been. I do think his backhand down the line and a lack is a problem at times on a hard court on clay he seems to trust the process more.
If you could guarantee Novak and Rafa would have Dominic Thiem in the opposite half right now I am sure they would take it.
There is a quest for history underway. Dominic Thiem is leader of the pack looking to loosen the grip the top three have on Grand Slam titles.
However, there is a chase at the top too. Roger Federer is on 20, Rafael Nadal on 19 and Novak Djokovic is on 17 Grand Slam titles.
Dominic Thiem installs fear, he has a good record against Djokovic, Nadal and Federer and these wins on the big stages will be a catalyst for him going forward.