Nitto ATP Finals |Dominic Thiem Once Believed ‘It’s Impossible To Qualify’ For London
As Dominic Thiem worked his way onto the ATP Tour, he’d keep a close eye on the ATP Race To London at the end of each year. Even if he wasn’t in contention for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, he wanted to see how the battle for the final spots turned out, learning who the best players in the world that season were.
Now, not only does Thiem do more than keep an eye on the Race, he has become a consistent force, set to compete at The O2 for the fourth straight year.
“It’s an amazing achievement,” Thiem said. “I told myself, ’It’s impossible to qualify here. It’s so many points and you need to play such a great year.’ So for me it’s unreal that I qualified for the fourth time already. Also it was a great personal goal for myself in the beginning of the season to make it again to London and I made it, so I’m very proud of that and very excited.”
Thiem has won one match during round-robin play in each of his first three appearances at the season finale. But the Austrian has not yet battled his way to the semi-finals. That is one of the 26-year-old’s main goals this visit.
“Of course that’s my big goal. The first two years it was just so nice to be here even and last year I wanted to be in the semi-finals badly, but I didn’t play that well,” Thiem said. “I think I’m playing way better this year, but the level is so high, it’s the eight best guys of the season, so it can also happen that I play three very good matches and I lose three of them, so there is no guarantee for nothing, but I’ll try my best and hopefully I can make it to the semi-finals for the first time.”
The fifth seed feels that he is currently playing some of his best tennis. After losing in the first round of the US Open, where he admitted to suffering from illness, Thiem has caught fire. He won the China Open in Beijing — including wins over former World No. 1 Andy Murray, 2018 Paris champion Karen Khachanov and fellow London qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas — and also triumphed at the Erste Bank Open, withstanding the pressure of competing at home in Vienna.
Thiem has also improved his performance against Top 10 opposition in 2019. Before this season, he had a 15-32 record against the elite group. This year, he is 6-3.
“After the US Open I made a big step into the right direction, especially with my game on the hard courts, on the faster surfaces. I come to the net more often. I improved my volleys, my serve and returns,” Thiem said. “I’m happy with that and as a result of that I had pretty good results in the late stages of the season.”
A major change Thiem made earlier in 2019 was switching up his coaching team. The Austrian star had long had Gunther Bresnik in his corner. But he spoke with Nicolas Massu during a January Davis Cup tie between Austria and Chile, then met with the former World No. 9 again in Buenos Aires in February. Their first official collaboration came at the BNP Paribas Open in March, which fittingly was the first ATP Masters 1000 title Thiem won.
“I think it was necessary to make a change. I had unbelievable success and an unbelievable road with my old coach. But there was a moment when I chose to need something new, to develop my personality, to develop my game on court,” Thiem said. “I was trying it out with Nico and the first tournament together we had was Indian Wells, so it was straightaway a good decision. And then I realised more and more that he’s bringing very good stuff to my game. He’s able to develop my game into the right direction and most important of all, there’s a great chemistry between us.
“He’s a great guy, [he has] very good character and I’m happy to be with him and I’m looking forward to some good times with him.”
Before Indian Wells, Thiem had only managed a 3-4 record to start his season. But since, he has won an ATP Tour-leading five titles, also a personal best. Now, he will look to make his mark in London,
“I had a pretty rough start to the season, but with the Indian Wells title I turned everything around and I’m very happy and excited,” Thiem said. “Since I was here the first time, it’s always one big personal goal in the beginning of the season, to qualify again for the [Nitto] ATP Finals. It’s a big achievement being among the top eight guys, so I’m a little bit proud of course and super happy that I’ve done it again and I can’t wait for everything to start.”