Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have been given a warning from their old rival Dominic Thiem, as the 2020 US Open champion continues to enjoy success in his comeback from a wrist injury. The Austrian was the first of the younger players to reach a Grand Slam final and eventually end the six-year stronghold that Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka had on Major titles.
Thiem established himself as one of the biggest threats to Nadal and Djokovic’s dominance, reaching his maiden Major final back in 2018 at the French Open before finally getting his hands on a trophy in his fourth Grand Slam final at the 2020 US Open. The former world No 3 had continuously proven his ability to beat the two iconic players even on their best surfaces and at Major level before his career was derailed by a wrist injury.
The Austrian hadn’t played since the Mallorca Open last year and made a comeback almost a whole year later on the clay. But it took him 14 months to finally get a win again – first at the Austria Challenger before making it to the quarter-finals of the Swedish Open last week, beating a top 20 opponent en route.
And Thiem has now given Nadal and Djokovic something to worry about with the US Open looming, as the 28-year-old set his sights on reaching his best level by the end of the year, ready to contend with the top players at the final Masters of 2022 in Paris before hoping for a big 2023 season.
“The main goal is to regain my best level by the end of the season,” the current world No 274 said after backing up his run in Bastad with a win at the Swiss Open yesterday.. “To play the way I was before when I step on court. To think I am able to win against any opponent.”
But Nadal and Djokovic will be offered some solace as the Austrian doesn’t believe he will be able to get back to his peak in time for his return to the US Open in what will be his first appearance since winning the title two years ago. He added: “That is not going to happen now or probably by the US Open, but by the end of the year, that is the goal.”
And the 28-year-old had found a new sense of freedom in his comeback, as he found himself enjoying every win even at the lower levels despite being a Grand Slam champion. Thiem continued: “I feel now a bit like I did at the beginning of my career, where every win was something very special.
“I reached the quarter-finals in Bastad at an ATP 250 and it feels huge to me. It was similar at the start of my career. When you are used to going deep, a match win is not as special anymore. But that is not the way it should be. The level is so high, all the players are playing so well, so every match win should be special and that is how I am feeling again now.”