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!

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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.

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