THIEM – LATE MATURER – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

We had just an interesting discussion, inspired by Bresnik’s statement about Dominic’s fitness. The discussion started HERE. If interested, read all comments or look HERE. Where some of comments are collected into a new post.

I have added today some new comments to the first post and I was also looking for images, showing, how Thiem’s body has matured in last 2 years.

Here are some of these photos and you can compare yourself and build a relation to Bresnik’s statement and how to interpret it 🙂


Thiem in 2016
Thiem middle of 2017
Thiem December 2017 on Tenerife, preparing for 2018

DISCUSSION ABOUT “ONLY FEW KNOW…”

Just starting new kind of posts, compiled from discussion about some apparently inspiring primary post. The idea is, some readers don’t look for new comments to the post they read before and would miss the discussion


Michelle Blaydon

FEBRUARY 25, 2018 AT 11:14 PM EDIT

Hi Wladyslaw,
I took Bresnik’s comment at face value. I.e that what Dominic can achieve in practice is far greater than what he is producing in competition. I would presume this is the norm for most players regardless of their ranking owing to all the variables that have to be taken into account throughout a tournament. There are probably a few that thrive under the pressure of a ‘true’ match as opposed to practice but I would think this to be a very small percentage (Federer probably the most likely example!)
It appears that Dominic is in exceptionally good physical condition but as you have pointed out previously this does not win matches alone. You’ve also mentioned that Dominic’s level of play this year is already much better than it was in the latter part of last year and he has clearly improved certain aspects of his game. I am sure this is true however it cannot be denied that although he creates many break point opportunities he really struggles to convert them. I may be wrong but presume that these key moments are very hard to replicate in practice.
The other issue, one that many write about is Dominic’s lack of an ‘alternative’ or ‘Plan B’! You noticed that he tried to implement this in his latest match against Verdasco & it clearly didn’t work. From a positive perspective is this something that Bresnik has finally realized is necessary & still in the early stages of execution or was this of Dominic’s choice alone? Hopefully the former. We can only wait to see.
You’ve made a very interesting observation in regard to those who have won the tournaments so far this year. It cannot be denied that this had begun to happen also in the latter part of last year. I think it proves how much easier it is to win if you are a good young and/or lower ranked player without the pressure of expectation. This must also prove how incredible the mental & physical power of Federer, Nadal & Djokovic was/is with Murray & Wawrinka behind them but still impressive! Would be interested to know what you think?

Reply

Michelle Blaydon

FEBRUARY 26, 2018 AT 12:04 AM EDIT

Also, some more observations! You write about ‘warm-up’ events. Dominic’s warm-up events prior to both Wimbledon & USO last year did not produce good results for him yet he managed the 4th round of both slams although unfortunately no further. The question is would it have been better for Dominic to have lost earlier in Buenos Aires (especially from a rankings perspective) & to have won in Rio or would Verdasco have beaten him regardless? Trying to analyze this from a scheduling perspective must be almost impossible (unless again your name is Federer!). My point is that had Dominic won or gone very deep at Halle, Antalya, Montreal &/or Cincinnati, would he have lost sooner at those GSs? Do you know what the stats are in regard to previous GS winners who have played those warm-up events? I’m pretty sure I have a good idea but I trust you will have the accurate answer!

Reply

PRF

FEBRUARY 26, 2018 AT 7:56 AM EDIT

@Michelle
I understand your point but you must recognize (sure, you do, I think), Dominic is a very special case. Every tennis match is a small or big war. In a real war not always win those, who have better weapons. People call it in tennis (and other direct competition sports) “killer instinct”. Those who win the most are just “instinctive killers”.
We can observe Dominic misses this factor and this is his character, he will not change it, he will rather lose than start consciously to be a killer. He is so respectful and friendly against the worst killers like Delpo. He never takes an advantage in doubtful situations, while others always do (including Federer)
Did you see the short video I posted yesterday in the Rio Open thread? It shows perfectly, who Dominic is. He knew, he is right and the umpire (one of the best and friendly umpires Mohammed Lahyani) takes the false ball mark. Everyone else would tell the umpire – look, this is not the right ball mark. But he didn’t. He never discusses with the umpire. He accepts, the umpire can be wrong in his decision and this belongs to the game. I’m quite sure, Verdasco knew, the umpire is investigating the mark not from this shot. But it was about maybe winning or losing the set and consequently maybe the match. Just like Anderson last year. This is something we cannot (and should not) expect to change. And we should take it positive. Maybe you recall Bresnik’s statement in the end part of his book something like “Dominic just found his way to be aggressive”. This way is to accept every loss, to learn about his deficits and to improve. This is what he will do all his career and life. He is sometimes sad after especially bitter losses, like to Delpo. But never angry, never unfriendly. This has a big impact on his results. He wants to win only because he can do so many things in the game itself so good – if not, he starts to grind and improve to be better next match, next season. I personally like Dominic “as is”, may he not win so much he could “borrow” the character from Dimitrov (I did post one about players who are able to win matches even having all stats worse than the opponent) or Lucas Pouille and many others. Federer one of biggest examples – Rafa on the other side. Dominic and Rafa has this in common and they understand each other a lot better than any other pair in the top of the game. Nadal is more flexible in the game, plan changing a.s.o. – this is what Dominic can improve and he does this. He will go all the career this way. Someday either he is so good in everything, nobody beats him or he will never or not often win big titles.
Re latest Bresnik’s remark – I think, he meant both – Dominic is not yet peaking for the season. And Dominic is far from peaking for the career. Late bloomer in every aspect.
And just like he was 8 or 12 or 16, he plays and LEARNS with passion. He is a difficult case for typical coaches. Typical coach tells the player – do you want to win? Do what all others do. Exploit weaknesses. Do mind games. Take umpire’s errors if they are to your advantage. This is what virtually ALL do. How do you want to defeat them when they will find ways to take you the most important points or take “small white pills” if this can help? And use crowds. The only way Dominic uses crowds is to deliver outstanding shots or rallies and get his reward, some clapping or Mexican wave and he is happy with this. But never interacting, like Monfils, like Dustin Brown, like Federer, like many Frenchmen, like Wawrinka or Djokovic, Zverev. I think, Bresnik knows, it has no more sense to try to change Dominic to be a killer. He will always play the ball and the court, never the opponent. I know, he is happy with his achievements and not thinking too much about prospects. He thinks his life is blessed – he can do what he loves the most – every day he does not play tournament he makes practice. Not an usual. He practices so long, he has improved what he planned to improve. This all can be read in Bresnik’s book. If not this book, we would not be able to understand Dominic. This is why I decided to translate most important and Dominic-related parts. To help others understand, who is Dominic. But many have read (I don’t mean you!!!) and after a week they post comments like “how is he a Top10 player? he plays on the Top200 level. They forgot or never understood.
So Dominic is still on the way of improvement and from time to time this will be enough to prevail. Without mind games. Without distracting the opponent, what almost everyone does regularly (including the goddish Federer). Well, I still like Fed’s game but not his personality. I like Dominic’s personality and I know he will be every year better and he will get closer to the very top until he reaches it and stays there for a longer while. But he will never collect records. Only be happy about each win, about each match well played, even if lost. And what we must learn, is to watch his matches live (many Fed Fans never watch matches live because of fear he could lose). They are worth this. Including watching his reactions to umpires’ errors, to opponents playing they have not seen and simply wait for the point. I could write a book, but somehow, I also miss a killer instinct. My life’s way has very much common with Dominic’s way. This is why I believe to understand him.

PRF

FEBRUARY 26, 2018 AT 9:37 AM EDIT

@Michelle
Forgot your remark about warm-up events.
I think, the whole planning is Bresnik’s job. He is controlling the whole preparation, so maybe Dominic even does not know, how it’s going on and doesn’t care much about that. He plays every tournament so good he can, never losing intentionally (what many do or even retire and some even tell why), so he was involved in Verdasco match as always. The big difference was, Verdasco is on the top line and his goals are different. Not thinking about winning Masters or slams. This is why he can go for everything in Rio or any smaller tournament, where he has still chances to win. So, Dominic played as always but Verdasco was playing “for life”.

PRF

FEBRUARY 26, 2018 AT 11:07 AM EDIT

@Michelle
Back again to some details of your comments.
Taking Bresnik’s statement at face value is of course another valid interpretation. But so far I know Bresnik, he never tells obvious things. Always a bit mysterious, because he knows more and he does not like media. Yes, Bresnik told too, Thiem was never so fit as he is now. And you are right – fitness itself does not win matches. But nobody wins matches (in big tournaments and on big stages) , not being top-fit. So, it’s a message – don’t expect him to falter because of fitness problems.
About converting break opportunities. I recall some big discussion on old Fed’s website about Federer having so poor conversion rate. And I presented there the opinion, the ability to create break opportunities is primary. You cannot convert the opportunity until you create it. Well, sometimes opportunities are “created” by the opponent but on top level not very often. If the opponent plays great and you are still able to create many break opportunities, you cannot be blamed for low conversion rate. It’s not conversion rate which wins matches. If you create 10 opportunities and convert 3 (miserable 30%), you win the match against opponent, who has 100% conversion rate (created 1, converted 1). Break opportunities of course cannot be replicated in training, because the pressure is not there and break opportunities are all about pressure.
Missing plan B – I think, this is an integral part of Dominic’s character. Plan B would mean either “change the game” or “play the same but better”. Both can hardly apply to Dominic, who always plays 100%, so how could it be possible to play better? To change would mean to play the same but worse. If you don’t start at 100%, you can rise the game, as many do, but not Dominic. IMO not possible and no need to change it.
From my long-time observation and some playing experience I know, it mostly goes wrong, if you change the concept during the game. You can change details only and that’s what (almost) every player is doing. It’s not a plan B, simply small instinctive adjustments. If I see, the opponent (normally being big on serve) has just a poor serving day, I can try more aggressive returns.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are out of this planet and I don’t see followers. So, after those 3 retire, there will be more room for winning for those who were not blessed by having the optimal combination of talent, passion, coaches. And starting their careers in the far less competitive field than we have today.
Warm-up events and following big tournaments. I don’t know stats by heart, but my feeling is, it’s very individual. Some are deliberately playing not going for titles before big tournaments, retiring after having enough of warming-up and now wanting to recover to be fresh. Others (maybe first of all Djokovic) go for many wins in a row before the biggest event, giving them immense confidence and making opponents see him unbeatable. This has worked for him for so many years.
What we can observe so far with Dominic, there is no strict relation – he can exit first rounds in many smaller tournaments and then still perform well in big tournaments. (Example: Wimbledon 2017) He can also win titles or go deep before big tournaments and perform well there. (Example: French Open 2017).


Update 27.02.2018 7:36  

Hi Wladyslaw,
Thank you for your comments in response to mine, I always appreciate them & learn & understand more in the process.
I am more than happy for you to create a separate article of our posts although I must stress to anyone reading my comments that I am not a tennis player on any level but just an avid spectator. I do understand some aspects of the game from a technical perspective but there is much I do not. I do not even come from a sports background (although I now work in the fitness industry) rather from ‘the arts’ but my interest in the game may to some degree come from my understanding & appreciation of the demands & pressure of constant practice and performance at a very high level.
And yes Wladyslaw, I certainly do recognise that Dominic is a very special person & player in many ways. I find his humble nature & the way in which he conducts himself both on & off the court to be truly inspirational. His sportsmanship, ethics morals & general personality are exceptional & this is to a large degree why I wish him so much success in something he is so passionate about & has clearly dedicated himself to. I would never want to see him ‘change’ his character & certainly not use underhand methods to help him win matches. And as you say, this will never happen. Btw, I did watch the video you posted re the ballmark investigation in the match vs Verdasco in Rio. Of course the injustice & ‘what ifs’ are frustrating for his fans but we have to remember that incorrect calls are upheld in many matches where hawkeye is not used regardless of whether the player argues or not. I do understand that arguing with the umpire whether justified or not can interrupt the rhythm of the opponent’s game as well as their own & this may be another reason why Dominic chooses not to go down that route. I would also like to believe that Dominic strives to play at such a high level that a couple of ‘incorrect calls’ will eventually not affect his ability to win the match. So I do take it as a positive.
I hope that Bresnik does make the correct decisions in regard to Dominic’s schedule. As he says, he knows what Dominic is capable of & that he would never put anything less than 100% into any of his matches. I recall Dominic saying that playing matches gives him more confidence & I’m sure Bresnik takes this into account when making scheduling decisions. As you say it is a very individual thing.
I do understand percentages in regard to break point conversion & that a player has to be playing at a very high level to create many of those opportunities (unless of course the opponent is playing particularly badly). Clearly Dominic has been doing this in recent matches. However, unless I’m mistaken I do recall you stating in another of your articles that Dominic would most probably be unable to create as many of these opportunities when playing other highly ranked players & surely this must be when the ability to convert becomes crucial in determining the outcome of the match.
In regard to’Plan B’, I only mentioned this as a response to something that comes up a great deal in articles & posts about Dominic’s game in general. This is where my technical knowledge lets me down so I really do appreciate your understanding & explanation of this aspect. I have a great deal of respect for those players that are clearly having ‘a bad day at the office’ yet still find a way to win the match without resorting to underhand tactics. I guess the same applies when an opponent is playing exceptionally well & the other player has to make those instinctive adjustments to their own game in order to win.
I fully accept that Dominic will never break records. All I would like to see is that he reaches ‘his’ full potential whatever that may be & gets the right help & decisions from his team to make this possible.

As an aside, do you remember the article written about Dominic last year, I think it was in GQ magazine entitled: ‘Dominic Thiem is the next big thing in tennis so why doesn’t anyone care about him?’ ? The article revealed how many tournament journalists no longer bother to turn up to his post match interviews as he has nothing controversial to say & consider him boring! I think this proves what a good & honest person he is. Dominic will never be an entertainer other than via his exhilarating & brilliant shot making. More than enough said!

Thank you also Wilfred for your comments.

ONLY FEW KNOW WHAT THIEM IS ABLE TO DELIVER

It’s a quote from a Bresnik interview after Dominic’s title in Buenos Aires.

Now some days after a small disaster in Rio de Janeiro.

No comments from Bresnik.

Were Bresnik’s words not prophetic? Verdasco for sure does not belong to those, knowing what Thiem is able to deliver. Not a nice joke for Dominic and his fans.

Now how should we interpret Bresnik’s words? He is for sure the man, who knows the most about Dominic. Another one is his fitness coach Alex Stober. Both outstanding professionals.

One possible interpretation is, that Dominic is far from peaking this season. Could be. Many top players are not. Many high ranked players exit early in tournaments before their main season or season’s parts.

Who were tournaments winners so far in 2018?

Brisbane – Nick Kyrgios

Doha – Gael Monfils (could have been Thiem but a virus got him out)

Tata Open – Gilles Simon

Sydney – Danil Medvedev

Auckland – Roberto Bautista Agut

Sofia – Mirza Basic

Quito – Roberto Carballes Baena

Montpellier – Lucas Pouille

New York Open – Kevin Anderson (first one from Top10, but not Top10 before the tournament and probably only short-term  Top10 member)

Buenos Aires – THIEM (first long-term Top10 member)

And 3 others, having finals today, so I give 2 potential winners:

Rio de Janeiro – Verdasco/Schwartzman

Marseille – Pouille/Khachanov

Delray Beach – Tiafoe/Gojowczyk

No big names here. I left intentionally Australian Open and Rotterdam aside – won by Roger Federer, but this is a special case (in many aspects). And Federer will not play 20+ tournaments in 2018, probably not more than 10-12, so he is planning his peaks differently.

Now back to Thiem.

Everything before Monte Carlo Masters is part of his season’s introduction.  To peak for 3 clay Masters, Barcelona and French Open, Thiem cannot go deep in every tournament before. There must be some calculation and all top players must do it.

So would it be so good and wise to prepare Thiem to win Buenos Aires, Rio, Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami? So long his main winning surface is clay, for sure not. Maybe in 1-2 years, but then with heavy focus on all Masters and Slams, no matter the surface.

Next for Thiem is Acapulco and this is a warm-up event before Sunshine Double for those, who did not play much so far this year. Don’t expect Thiem to win Acapulco. Maybe he could win it, but this could cost him following 2 Masters, where to go deep, has sense because of ranking. Thiem is not (yet) contender for crowns there, but could try to go deep in one of these tournaments.

So yes, I think, Bresnik knows, what he speaks about and this means, Thiem cannot peak right now. And nobody can win 5-10 tournaments in a row.

So it’s rather not a joke but scheduling. Maybe first season with bigger plans and maybe real chances to  reach big goals. Not now!

THIEM – NEW GAME MIX NEEDED

Thinking of Dominic’s development from pure clay-court specialist to an all-court player (still to come) I see following stages.

  • Basic skills, developed over long years, definitely clay-oriented.
  • Bringing the clay game to top level, including achievements, of 2016-2017, close to dethroning Nadal. In this phase, Thiem did play the same game on every surface, with not much success on grass and hard.
  • Starting to develop the hard-court game, with all it’s aspects – staying close to the line, hitting more aces, flat shots, playing more at the net. This phase was started late in the year 2016 and developed in 2017. With no big success because of learning but making the game still more hard-court-ready.
  • Now next phase started, playing different games on hard and on clay. Both close to mature, but it’s still the problem with switching among from tournament to tournament. First 2 on clay, next 3 on hard and then the long main clay season.
  • So far still playing the old clay-game on clay. Not very convincing. Because his potential includes now lots of tools learned to play on hard. But so far he does not use it on clay.
  • And here is the start-point to next phase. Maybe we will wonder, watching Thiem playing better and having more success on hard than on clay? If this happens, he should realize, that his next-step game must be a mix of everything he learned so far. No matter the surface. Be able to play both from far behind the baseline and close to it, deliver kick or flat serve. Approach the net to be able to play sharper angles, no matter the surface.  Mixing up everything in a tournament, in a match, set, game or even in a single rally. Making his game unreadable for opponents. And flexible to use the shot just needed in a given situation.  Would be good to learn this before clay Masters and RG, to be able to beat everyone on clay. And then bring it into the grass/hard court season to be able at least to reach regularly semifinals or finals on these surfaces. Maybe it needs more than one season, so this one will be still a learning version and the mature version comes out first next year?

Just a short update after having observed many clay-specialists playing on hard and hard-specialists playing on clay.

Yesterday the final in Houston. Sandgren, 99% hard court player, not even trying to slide, to play slice, with much spin. Just playing the same what he learned on hard. Flat serve, flat fast forehand. Plus some instinctive “unorthodox” shots in specific situations. Almost defeated Johnson, who is a very solid and experienced hard court player, but can hit good slices.

Right now watching hard/grass-oriented Haase playing hard-oriented Rublev in Monte Carlo. Both playing the same, typical hard-court game.

This lets me think, only the greatest players like actually Federer, Nadal and Djokovic (from his prime time) can control such optimal mix, good for any surface. And everyone going similar way. First reaching top level on their preferred surface. Then play their best game from the preferred surface on every surface. Then learning what’s specific for the other surfaces. Playing different games on different surfaces. At the end gluing everything they learned on all surfaces to one all-court game. Being able to use clay-typical skills on hard and vice versa.

This is the point still before Thiem.  But he’s going the way of the greatest. Still he can win more, using his best clay skills on every surface and adding some things, where the surface is not very differentiating. First of all – the serve. If you can hit aces with flat serves on hard courts, you can use these serves on clay too. But not as the first-choice serve, only to mix and make opponents unsure.

If Dominic remains healthy and injury-free, I expect him to play this year on hard a lot better than in the first years of his career. Being able to ADD some hard-court-specific game aspects to his primary clay game. Which will stay his main game style for the whole career. And get enriched with some hard-court.specific game to use on clay too.

Updated 16.04.2018, 12:21

ACAPULCO 2018

Everything about the tournament you find HERE.

The field will be very strong – with Nadal, Zverev, del Potro and many NextGen players: Hyeon Chung, Rublev, Shapovalov.

But first good news for Dominic is (Acapulco is ATP+WTA tournament) his Kiki will be there in the WTA field 🙂


Main draw is out. The whole draw you find HERE.

Dominic’s potential path to the title:

Qualifier>Shapovalov>del Potro>Alex Zverev>Anderson

Acapulco is 7 hours back to Vienna time, so probably all matches in the night for Europe. Matches played as last of the night session could come here in the early morning.

Updated 25.02.2018, 08:13


And here is the DRAW for Kiki. Both Dominic and Kiki will meet qualifiers in first round 😉 And both are set in the lower half (Thiem seeded 3., Kiki seeded 2.) Time schedule is not yet set up for the main draw.  Both men and ladies play every day in parallel, so it’s probable, Domi+Kiki will play the same day (then both have free day to spend some time together, including training).

Qualifiers will be known tomorrow morning Vienna time.

Updated 25.02.2018, 11:18


Dominic’s first opponent is qualifier, 22 years old Brit, born in South Africa, residence in Texas, USA 😉 Ranked 113, another lefty.  Has ousted in qualifications one of Dominic’s AO nightmares, Denis Kudla 😉

Not scheduled for today (tomorrow night and early morning in Europe), so must for tomorrow (…..)

Match prediction: Thiem wins 6:4, 6:3


Thiem plays the third match on Grandstand (of course lower ranked and playing against lower ranked Mischa Zverev could find place on Center Court!). I hope Mischa can oust the White Pills Teddy Baer 😉

But this arrangement has this nice effect, that while Dominic will Ply, Kiki will wait for her match on the same court, following Dominic’s match, so maybe can appear for a while in his box 🙂

Updated 27.02.2018, 08:53

… TO LOVE 🙂


Click the image to land in THIEM folder on Dropbox – look for ThiemNorrieAcapulco to watch the full match (wait a bit if the match not yet appears on the list, it’s just being uploaded (updated 10:24)

An exciting match, with accordingly reacting crowd (it’s called DrandStand Caliente – “caliente” means hot), almost won in 2 sets. Some small errors when serving for the match in the second set cost Dominic a 3-setter. Not bad for a warm-up before Shapovalov :).

Good game, good shots, not yet found perfectly the range on hard court. The opponent not that easy. Young, fighting, hitting hard (using the same Babolat Pure Strike racket), having played at least 2 matches before on hard.

(meanwhile Kiki won her first round match against Hesse, with more ease, 6:2, 6:2 – the LOVE works well for both so far :))


Today night (not before  01.00 pm, so for us it’s tomorrow) another exciting match against Shapovalov. Once more two big single-handed backhands on court.  Not an easy task for Dominic, but if he plays a bit better than today … Now on Center Court.

Match prediction: 7:6, 5:7, 7:5

Kiki plays her match 2 hours earlier, so maybe she can support Dominic a bit from his box? Mexican TV did not show player’s boxes today, but I expect Galo Blanco and Alex Stober sitting there


Meanwhile 2 big surprises yesterday.

  • Nadal withdrew from Acapulco because of  recurring leg muscle injury and will probably not be ready for IW and Miami. Sad for him. Could not be in big form in this year’s clay season.
  • Dimitrov was ousted in first round in Dubai by Malek Jaziri. Well, it looked like a “deal” with Federer. Dimitrov’s loss in Rotterdam was a bit dubious. I thought, maybe Fed decided to not enter Dubai to let Dimitrov win this one.  But this ended bad for him. At least has now more time to overcome jetlag before IW starts

After the change in the draw (why did not Rafa withdraw earlier to let Dominic be ranked 2.and vahe better draw?) I expect Anderson in the final. Who can be another finalist? The lower half  is heavy of contenders – Thiem, Shapovalov del Potro, Ferrer, Zverev, Schwartzman.

Dominic must not go badly for the title (but he will try of course) – if he reaches SF, would be good enough before Sunshine Double.


But before yesterday’s match the TWO had some relaxing  training on the beach 🙂

Updated 28.02.2018, 12:06


We don’t know, what happens today night, but we know, what is planned for Indian Wells, next station of the Tour, from an article (original in German here).

Fitness Camp in „Paradise of millionaires“

Switching from clay to hard succeeded but not without problems: last week lost Dominic Thiem, title defender in QF at Rio de Janeiro, on Wednesday could advance after 6:3, 5:7, 7:5 against the Brit Cameron Norrie into 1/8 finals. After Mexico an intensive fitness camp awaits.

 Title in 2016 – in Acapulco reached Thiem one of his nine tour titles. In 2018 he needed to sweat first, but it was enough for 3-sets win over Norrie. “A very, very hard match. It should be over a earlier, after the second set. Unfortunately I was not able to convert the advantage of 6:3, 5:4 and serving”, explains Thiem, “so I was required to go over a thriller.”

After Mexico it goes forward in Indian Wells. In the “Desert Paradise of US-millionaires” an intensive fitness camp with the sports scientist Mike Reinprecht from Austrian Steiermark awaits. “This year I will try”, says Dominic, “to make more fitness block during the season. To remain fir and fresh.” Reinprecht announces: “These blocks will be extreme.”

Updated 28.02.2018, 20:58


Click the image to land in THIEM folder on Dropbox and look for ThiemShapovalovAcapulco – the full match record


6:2, 6:3. Well, I was a bit too cautious, not expecting such a good game from Dominic.´The best comment is this quote from ATP website “Former champion Dominic Thiem looked like a hard-court king on Wednesday.

Yes, maybe just starting, what I expect to happen this season – Thiem will be more impressive on hard court than on clay.

What I would complain about were maybe too many tries of hitting return winners, most of them not successful. But maybe a kind of “training in competition” in relatively comfortable match situation? Anyway look the return winner on a breakpoint to 5:2. This one should count as hot shot of the day 🙂

Kiki winning too, so maybe they should play so many common tournaments as possible?

Today (rather early morning tomorrow) QF against del Potro.  Not sure what to expect from Delpo – hopefully no “little white pills” 😉 but maybe heavy support from the crowd?

Match prediction:  Thiem wins 7:6, 7:5

Updated 1.03.2018, 10:05

The return of returns 😉

Updated 1.03.2018, 12:17

Click the image to land in THIEM folder on Dropbox and look for ThiemDelpoAcapulco – full match record, wait about 30 minutes for the record to be uploaded

Bad day in the office. Delpo was not in big form and could be defeated. Dominic was too nervous and impatient. Bad tactic to look for instant winners, leading to lots of errors. Delpo could calmly wait for Dominic’s errors and they came. Delpo made also lot of errors, but Dominic was “better” in this aspect.

At 0:1, 4:5 with Delpo serving for the match Dominic started to play more relaxed, showing (too late) the game, he should have been played all the time.

The right tactic against Delpo is to make him running, simply hitting left-right until he makes error. But this is not Dominic’s game.

An old issue came back too. Being 3 times a break ahead and getting re-broken immediately by own errors and finally losing with double fault – it’s still the problem with playing pressure points.

Small and not very nice consolation –  Kiki lost too, so they have maybe 1-2 days free to spend together 🙂

Updated 2.03.2018, 09:41


POST SCRIPTUM

Do you remember these two articles? A RIDDLE and PRESSURE from 2017?

I thought, the lessen was understood and faults repaired. But it looks, they are still there.

Thiem cannot close games, sets and matches, which are actually almost won. Lots of such stories last season, including big tournaments, when he was in top form, fit and could even win titles in Masters and Slams. Berdych in Wimbledon 2017 – leading 5:2 in decider, serving for the match and … losing it. Delpo in US Open! Sandgren in AO.  Now Verdasco in Rio (playing like we would rather expect Dominic to play – first strike tennis for oldies). And Delpo again in Acapulco.

I don’t know answers but I know questions. And I know, nobody would drop a word. These questions goes to Thiem, Bresnik and Galo Blanco.

Once again a riddle.

Thiem is topfit. His hard court game matured. No more a trace of a virus illness from Doha. But somehow I don’t remember Thiem smiling and being on fire and playing with courage (as he always did) this year.

Stony, serious face, sometimes grimaces (of pain?) He looks ill. How can anybody be topfit and ill at the same time? Where are comments from Dominic and his team?

Everything only preparation for tons of big titles on clay and later? Not very logic. How can confidence be built-up, while playing many “warm-up” tournaments, ending so poor? And not showing motivation, courage, energy?

Now Thiem should have an additional extreme fitness block before Indian Wells? Who plans such things for a player, who misses energy in matches? For a player, who is maybe ill, but nobody tells?

Again, a riddle too much, the Thiem Team.

Maybe holding his abilities secret before bigger events? I would like it to be true. But … too many doubts.


But this was good !!!

See you at Sunshine Double 🙂


Just seen, that Zverev lost to Delpo in SF 4:6, 2:6.

Looked stats of both matches – vs. Thiem and vs. Zverev.  I knew this generally before, but this is now again the same and maybe some explanation, why Delpo is so hard to beat, especially for young guys with not enough experience.

What’s special in these stats, Delpo has substantially higher winning rate at his second serve, higher winning rate when returning both first and second serve, higher breakpoint saving and breakpoint converting rates. All these are pressure points.

Delpo has virtually no nerves. And extraordinary capability of making opponents nervous and get them out of rhythm. Here are some ways he does it, not always fair and sometimes breaking rules (but which umpire would punish such a teddy bear after so hard years of surgeries for time violation or violation of other rules?).

  • Between points he is walking like almost dead old man.
  • He regularly uses towel after serve fault of the opponent.

This is obvious breaking of the rule, telling, the server’s time for serve since the last point ended is limited and the returner must be ready to receive (if nothing special happens) so the server must not wait for him to be ready. This is intentionally distracting opponents in crucial moments – before first and even worse – before second serve.

  • Of course he is allowed to use rule-breaking Federer’s invention to change racket between games, when there is no changeover. So the opponent is waiting even 1 minute since he is ready to serve. At this time the receiver should be ready to receive. But he is just changing the racket. Not because the racket failed. Only because he needs to distract the server. This works very often, resulting in missing first serve or even lose the point with double fault. Imagine there is 5:5 or 5:4 for you in the set and you are serving, either to not get broken on the finish line or to hold serve to win the set. PeRFect moment to be distracted. Thanks Mr. Federer, winner of Sportsmanship Awards every year. Thank Mr. d.P., the second client of Federer’s agency Team8. Thanks, Tony Godsick, for good job in building-up the image of your clients by explaining the umpires, it’s good for tennis (business) those 2 to win matches and tournaments.

POSSIBLE EXPLANATION FOR THIEM’S POOR PERFORMANCE IN RIO AND ACAPULCO

I wrote before how strange I found it. Thiem being topfit and not performing well.

Well, this is speculation. But based on something any good observer of professional tennis should know by heart.

Every player has his main goals for the season. Some have only the biggest, like Federer who because according to ATP rules (age, position in ranking a.s.o.) can skip also mandatory events, so he skips everything and plays only tournaments he wants and plans to win.

Some have opposite plans – to play so much it goes, maybe it happens to make a deep run in one tournament or even win a title?

I think, Thiem has for the first time big plans, focused on Masters and Slams. But he cannot skip anything like Federer and needs some match practice before those bigger tournaments.

So the first one was AO. He played first Doha, then had a virus (maybe not a virus but warm-up before AO scheduled for 3 matches in Doha?) Then he did play very well at AO – the run (which would probably end with SF or even F) was unfortunately broken by Sandgren (I’m still following his  presence on tour because of suspicion, he could be heavily doped in AO, maybe just to get Thiem away before he eventually could beat Federer).

Then Buenos Aires ending with title, but without any stellar performance – not needed. Then Rio – again, no plans to win the tournament and “waste” resources before upcoming big goals.

Again the same in Acapulco. Only so much to have some practice on hard surface but remain fresh and fit before Sunshine Double.

Now he plans another short but extreme fitness block in Indian Wells with Mike Ruprecht (specialist in extreme fitness exercises).

This all together can be a big plan to go for big results in IW+Miami. We will see.

I think, Acapulco was some display of what Thiem is able too but with missing motivation to go deep.

In such cases some are retiring after 2-3 matches, when it’s enough for the warm-up, even sometimes telling the media, they are OK but must just save powers for upcoming Slam or Masters. Retiring is not something, Thiem would like to do. So playing matches, not losing intentionally, but going only to some predefined energy loss.

You can see on my Dropbox account (links are available in this post) the whole Delpo match and here in the post a short video of how Dominic suddenly could perform for some games, not giving Delpo any chance, maybe just trying out something, he would play at 100% in upcoming big events.

Maybe you think, I’m crazy or my speculations is rather fantasy then logic. We’ll see soon 🙂


FUNNY?

This is how they make big hype from nothing. The only thing is you have the right name. No, not Dominic Thiem, this one is not good. You must call you Federer or del Potro. Then they do things like this.

Just wanted to watch once more the reply of the Delpo match on Tennis TV, where I have full year subscription paid. I have stopped the record too early and now I wanted to recall Dominic’s reaction after the match, just for my thinking about what you can read in my comments to this post. But under the respective link I found only THIS !!!

I’m sorry, I must laugh. You can see better and more spectacular volley in every match in Challengers. Now if this is an unbelievable volley for Delpo, I ask organizers to let Delpo go through qualifications in every match until he retires.

So I could not find what I was looking for, but I somehow recall it from watching live. Thiem was not disappointed with the loss. He absolved his exercise and went with Kiki to the beach or took the flight to Indian Wells, where he has scheduled a fitness camp before IW.

Updated 4.03.2018 14:02

WHAT WE HAVE LOST WITH MOTHER TONGUES?

Because tennis circus is turning more and more a global business, it must be of course controlled in a global language.  Nothing bad. But not really.

Just because tennis circus is global today, we can meet in tournaments players from more and more countries. No more only big tennis nations: France, Spain, Australia, US and UK.

8 of 10 players out of current Top10 and 16 of 20 players out of current Top20 are non-English natives.

But in every on court interview and title ceremony speech we must hear all the time the same phrases in 100-words-English.

I guess, most of spectators and fans watching TV or streams, can more, no matter their nationality. And of course they can more (understand and tell or write) in their own mother tongues.

I don’t remember, when it started, but I’m sure, I have heard Rafa speaking in beautiful Spanish and he could tell us more and deeper from his heart. And professional interpreters were on place with live-interpreting into the local language for the crowd. And commentators or interpreters in TV or stream telling it to me in my mother tongue. Or I was able to switch languages for the comment.

Now we here from everyone “Well, you know, thank you everybody (first of all directors and sponsors). The match was really tough and xxx is a great player and I’m happy, I could win on the end, you know. Thank you.” Wherever the tournament, whoever the opponent.

Please, ATP, bring it back. Let players speak in their languages.

Better to here someone speaking Korean being his mother tongue and smiling in Korean and me not understanding anything, if there is no language service from my TV or stream provider. Maybe I can read the a transcript in any local media or be it in English.

We all lose the music of so many languages we have on Earth and we lose the natural speaking in the language, in which everyone can tell what he feels instead of repeating standard sentences, everyone can and must learn by heart.

COIN TOSS WON – WHY DO SO MANY CHOOSE TO RECEIVE?

You can hardly find some reliable information, no statistics or rankings available.

First question – was it always so or is this relatively new?

I can only rely on my memories and on my own experience as a hobby player, both in learning and in playing in competition.

Some time ago it was default to choose to serve. This is supported by the experience, how difficult it is to break serve of the opponent. Substantially the server has always potential advantage and most od played games are won by servers. Of course if players are generally on the same level (pro players or hobby players).

What could have changed this “golden rule” in last years? Even top players and outstanding servers like Federer are mostly choosing to receive (but I believe to recall, he was earlier choosing to serve, just like most others). Don’t rely on their serve anymore?

I cannot recall, Sampras or Boris Becker or McEnroe or Agassi and all top players from these times to decline the option to serve first.

You may have good return, but return is always a defensive tool, when you play a good server (not necessarily the like of Karlovic or Isner).

You can compare percentages of breaks converted or saved but this does not give the answer if percentages of choosing to serve or to receive are not known.

Maybe a bit surprising – from the biggest current players only Nadal was always high in  in the ranking of saving and converting breaks, not Federer or Djokovic, but so far I recall well, Nadal more often than not chooses to receive.


So what it is about?

Mind games! Irrational feelings. Mental strength. Last second instant spontaneous decision.

Are all these factors more important today, as tennis technology (rackets, strings, balls, training) made the game faster and more powerful? Servers mostly trying to hit an ace or winner at first serve, some also on second serve. So is the risk a factor in this choice?

There are so many possible answers. Feeling well or not with serve during warm-up – not the one on court, but the longer warm-up 1-2 hours before the match). Thinking about possible reaction of the opponent.  Will he feel under pressure, when he must serve but it was not him, who decided to? Will he feel under pressure, when I choose to serve (the message “I’m big on serve today”).  What when I choose to serve and get broken just on the start? What when I choose to receive (to get the opponent under pressure) but he can hold his serve and now I’m under pressure to hold mine? What’s better: to win first game but lose the second or the opposite?

Thousands of questions, no real answers.  This is how mind games look like.


So what to do? The best YOU LOSE THE COIN TOSS  and the problem stresses not you but the opponent.  Or you ask ATP to give up with this part of the show  and simply let some random system (computer program or similar thing) to decide, who serves and on what side of the court. One stressing factor less for everyone 🙂

UNDERDOGS’ ADVANTAGES AND PRIVILEGES

It’s of course OK, if so called “underdogs” chances are somehow leveraged, not by artificial support, but by natural conditions of the game.

First of all there are two such advantages.

  • Playing qualifications

Those who must go through qualifications make sometimes upsets in first/second rounds of tournaments, where their higher ranked opponents play their first match in first round or have BYE in the first and start first in the second. At this time, the qualifier must have played 2-3-4 matches, is maybe a bit fatigued, but had time to find his rhythm, range a.s.o. So in terms of competition, the underdog is prepared better for the match with a seeded (maybe even top-seeded) opponent.

  • One match at-a-time

This is something you can hear from everyone, including top players like Federer or Nadal. When starting a slam even favorites try to only think about the upcoming match. Not really possible, but they try.  Meanwhile for an underdog this is the real situation. He qualified into main draw and it’s just a success. Or he has won first round match and this is a success too. Now the next time they play someone, who is ranked a lot higher or is maybe one of top players. This player MUST win, whatever he says about thinking on one match at-a-time, because his real goal ist to win the title. The underdog must nothing. The world will not end if he loses. If he loses after delivering some good tennis, it’s good enough. In the best possible case they make an upset, one of those big Cinderella stories. So they are motivated bot not under pressure.

  • No need for energy-saving

The underdog must not make plans to peak in the final. He will not go there for sure.  If he wins the current match and loses badly the next, it’s still more than OK.  So underdogs always give everything they have – energy, power, rising their game to the occasion, going the highest risk. They can only win – nothing to lose.

I have observed such situations many times, but now, as Thiem is often than not a favorite on paper”, I observe them more often.

Just in the last match (against Lajovic in Rio )it was the same. And I’m observing Thiem dealing every season better this situation. This is necessary to win any title, but first of all a big title. And Thiem is on the way to have high goals.

Now playing 3 back-to-back tournaments: Buenos Aires, Rio and Acapulco and after short pause (if he comes deep in all these tournaments) 2 back-to-back Masters.

I’m curious, how good he can deal with this heavy load of physical and mental pressure. I hope, he can 🙂

THE HYPE IN TENNIS

Where is big money, there’s the inevitably the hype. In arts. In (professional) sports. Everywhere in the world from “Cabaret” (Bob Fosse, 1972, big roles of Liza Minelli, Michael York and Joel Grey). You may recall the flagship song from the movie “Money, money”. It was only 40 years ago. But “money makes the world go round” was never that true like these days.

Unfortunately we must see this happening on big scale in tennis, many of us maybe still imagine as a most elegant, clean sports for gentlemen (and gentlewomen).

One could write a long, long story of the hype in tennis, but let’s limit us to the latest story.  Once more unfortunately it’s going on on high tours around one of biggest and loved tennis players – Roger Federer.  Every tennis fan knows, Federer likes or even loves the hype. About his person of course. He’s just “made for the hype”, so many forget him being a great athlete and adding to him so many things, only because “the show must go on” and the “money must make the world go round”.

Federer is on the one side an institution in tennis. In the most positive sense. He delivers outstanding tennis since about 20 years. On the other side there is the hype. I’m not sure if he is “born for the hype” or has learned to like it, because so much of this hype happens around him. This may have changed his ego and let (at least partly consciously) him play the role instead of be himself (in this aspect – not when playing).

Maybe Federer (but for sure the related business) feels, this could be a farewell tour this year, so let’s milk ´the cow so long and so much it goes. So many records as possible.  At least the 100. ATP title. And at least Wimbledon.

Whatever Federer thinks about this, IMO it’s not giving him what he deserves but just the opposite. Over 20 years Federer was not only delivering stellar tennis but also winning, winning, winning. Without privileges, without “small comforts” (not that small) to play the court and the time he wishes (while other have the same wish but Federer has highest priority).

The (negative) hype in tennis comes from media, fanatics, every kind of tennis-related business and even not tennis-related business (like Vogue,), everyone eager to have his/her share in milking. Not only Federer. But others are not so hype-compatible.

But there’s also a kind of positive hype in tennis. Spontaneous reactions of crowds (not wearing gadgets, not painted with national colors, while not understanding tennis at all and not interested in tennis as sports). They belong to those, who seem the most to play more for fun then for glory and money. Players like Gael Monfils, Dustin Brown, Alexandr Dolgopolov. Sometimes this kind of hype  is addressed to players “not made for hype”, but delivering some outstanding tennis, based on talent and even more on long years of hard work. It’s  Rafael Nadal. It’s Dominic Thiem too 🙂 And David Goffin. To speak only about top players.  Federer would of course have this kind of hype too but it is not visible among the noisy hype coming from business and hysteric “fans” clowning to the limit of human dignity only to be shown for a while on a telebim.

So let’s hype – everyone his/her way 🙂

TAKING BALL EARLY ON CLAY – GOOD OR NOT?

The concept of this post comes from this @wilfried’s comment, letting me think a bit more about this.

You all may know it from Nadal, always starting the rally (if not serving) from far behind the baseline. If Nadal does this, it’s safe to assume, there is an advantage, at least on clay. Nadal did play for years the same on hard courts, but then coming ahead instantly after the first shot from the back.

Now we want to know, how can/should Dominic play on clay to have more success (in his case it would mean to win French Open and maybe some clay Masters, so with very high expectations). And there’s a question of “economics” of the game – do you save energy while taking balls early or not?

Probably we all remember Dominic’s match in Rome Masters last year, when he defeated Nadal, just while moving closer to the baseline and stepping into the court early. This made Nadal quite impossible to come closer, he was in deep defense all over the match. And this brought Dominic a big win – over top form Rafa.

Next day we all wondered about Dominic’s heavy loss to Djokovic, who wasn’t  at his best. What happened?

Dominic told then, he was physically and mentally worn out and almost not ready to play.

This may be a part of the answer about “energy-saving” on clay.  While taking balls early, it seems, Dominic used a lot more of energy he would use taking the ball as he does usually. Like most clay-oriented players.

Now let’s compare with Federer’s game on clay. Federer’s game is half-volley-oriented, so he takes balls not only on the rise, but almost just after the ball hits the court.

Is it possible to take the ball on clay that early and hit topspin shots? Recalling Federer’s big matches on clay, I would tend to answer – it’s not possible. So why can Federer take balls early on clay and don’t use too much energy and play successfully (of course not comparable with his game on hard surfaces)? I think it’s because of his perfect slice. Taking balls early with slice (Feliciano Lopez could be even better example as he plays almost everything with slice, both backhand and forehand) is a kind of dampening the effect of heavy topspin of the opponent. Such shot can hardly be a winner (only if it goes as a perfect dropshot), but can allow to approach the net or at least make the opponent more difficult to hit topspin shots. The best way of returning slice is just slice, because the  landing ball is “dead” – has almost no energy and the opponent must use more energy to hit topspin as he would need if the coming ball were hit with topspin.

To come to some conclusion without writing a very long story 😉

Dominic’s game on clay must rely on topspin shots, so he must basically play from behind the baseline and step forward only if the opponent has hit a short ball (intended dropshot or intended short shot to pull the opponent into the court and then to pass him) or if the opponent’s ball is short, because he could not hit longer.

Maybe the only case, when Dominic must be required to take balls earlier, is just a top form Nadal. To be able to play (win or lose) next match, he must first defeat the biggest opponent – if it’s not the final 🙂

Of course cannot play like this on hard or grass. I think, we will see the difference in Acapulco and Double Sunshine.

What do you think?