Dominic Thiem has explained how he is using Rafael Nadal as the blueprint for his continued comeback from injury. The Austrian was the reigning US Open champion when he injured his wrist last year and has finally started to gain steam in his comeback, now sitting at world No 165 after dropping as low as No 352.
Thiem was primed to be the next player to carry the torch on from the Big Three era after reaching No 3 in the world and becoming the first man born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open. But disaster struck for the 29-year-old when he injured his wrist during the Mallorca Championships last June and was forced to end his season.
The Austrian finally returned on the clay this year but has only started to gain momentum in recent months, reaching either the quarter or semi-finals at three hard court tournaments in July before reaching the final of the recent Rennes Challenger. Now back up to No 165 in the world, Thiem is looking to Nadal as the blueprint for his return as someone that he says “always comes back” from injury.
“He is probably the best role model for this experience, since he did it not only once, but four or five to come back from a long time of injury of six months or even more,” Thiem told AS. “And the form was always amazing. So it’s a great inspiration.”
The 29-year-old was player once dubbed the ‘prince of clay’ to Nadal’s ‘king of clay’ and opted to make his comeback on the surface earlier this year but struggled early on. During the Madrid Masters, Nadal defended Thiem and said it was “not the time” to put “pressure” on him.
And the two-time French Open finalist responded to Nadal’s words, saying: “And in Madrid, he was right. This was not the time to pressure me. But you have to start doing it, because the pressure at the end helps you recover the good performances.”
While Thiem experienced some low moments during his long road to recovery, the 2020 US Open winner said he never considered retiring and made it clear that the end of his career was still a long way off. “No, because I’m still young and I want more achievements,” he said when asked if he ever wanted to retire.
“And I also think I have a few more good years ahead of me. So that didn’t come to mind.” For now, the 17-time title winner is focused on getting back inside the world’s top 100 after a dominant start to his campaign at this week’s Gijon Open, where he defeated Jaoa Sousa 6-2 6-0 in the first round.
“I want to finish the year in the top 100,” he added. “It would be fantastic to achieve this, I am mentally focused on the next game in Gijón. I still have a lot of points to go, so I need wins and good games to achieve that goal. And that is why I am working very hard, focused and very happy with the way I have started the tournament. I hope it can continue like this.”