(German original you can read HERE)
Thiem: “I want to be number one”
Before the match against Federico Delbonis (ARG) in Madrid (4:6,6:3,7:5), Dominic Thiem answered questions to a round of journalists.
Dominic Thiem wants to be at the top of the world rankings where Rafael Nadal stands.
With the final in Madrid, the semi-final in Rome and last year’s French Open, you’ll have a lot of points to defend over the next few weeks. Can you ignore that?
Thiem: I don’t ignore the world rankings. I know that I can fall back through early defeats. What’s the big deal when I’m 15 or 20? Let worse happen to me than that. I’ve been in the top ten for two years, if I drop out, the goal is to fight my way back.
Can you play easier if you have concrete goals?
Thiem: I just want to play well, then the ranking position comes by itself. My goals are to win a Masters 1000 tournament and a Grand Slam, and I want to become the number one in the world. I was already number four, was in a Masters final and in a Grand Slam semi-final, if I reached that I would not be satisfied anymore. I don’t care if I’m number four or two.
You have improved continuously. What an increase is still possible?
Thiem: The increase is getting smaller and smaller, actually hardly visible. The air becomes thinner, the room for improvement smaller.
You have proven that you can beat Dominator Rafael Nadal on clay. Does the role of the first challenger increase the pressure?
Thiem: I think that I am one of the few people who can beat Nadal on clay. This “clay court fuss” is due to last year because this part of the season was outstanding. The years before I played almost as well on hard court and grass. Of course, I feel most comfortable on clay, but I don’t want to be reduced to it.
Is your focus entirely on the French Open?
Thiem: That’s where I have the best chances, because I’m playing on clay the most consistently at the moment. But I don’t want to focus too much on a tournament, the season is too long for that.
Where do you currently see yourself on your way? Have you ever been closer to your goals?
Thiem: In terms of results, I was close, but still a long way from a Grand Slam title. The hurdles Nadal and Djokovic were too high. It’s hard as hell to win tournaments like this. You have to beat at least one or two top players.
After victories over big names, you often suffered clear defeats in the next round. Why?
Thiem: These victories cost an enormous amount of energy. I’m not used to playing these aces for two days in a row. If you can’t get a top performance there, you’ll go under the wheels. To defeat Nadal, I have to play like I did in Rome in 2017, but I only managed that this one time.
What makes the Nadal phenomenon?
Thiem: It’s a combination of everything. He has an unbelievable presence from the first rally. You must not allow yourself to make a mistake, you must always be in control. Once he has you, he won’t let you go.
You’ve lost to Nadal before. What role does the psyche play? Is your head rattling before the match?
Thiem: Not at all, quite the opposite. I beat him twice, not many players can go into a duel with him with such background. Anyway, I don’t have a Nadal complex.
You are omnipresent as advertising media in Austria. How do you deal with the level of awareness?
Thiem: This came automatically with the successes and has no great significance for me. I don’t like seeing myself in TV commercials. I think people in Austria like me, that’s important to me. 99 percent of the people on the street are extremely friendly to me.
You also have a great role model effect on young people. Which values would you like to represent?
Thiem: That’s an important thing that children start sports because of me. That’s why I want to behave as best I can on the court. Even if I don’t always succeed. It’s a process I need to learn. I want to convey class and seriousness, but one should also look at the joy in doing so.
Last year, the magazine “GQ” raised the question of whether you are too bland for a superstar.
Thiem: I don’t care! I’m a perfectly normal guy. I still pretend I’m not a professional athlete.
The conversation in Madrid was recorded by Günter Almberger
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