WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIEM – ONE RIDDLE TOO MUCH?

Some of you wished to have this article be translated into English. I’m just starting to translate, while I’m still updating the German version, so be patient please, the English version will be updated daily, so you can look here every day to find some new stuff 🙂


Many fans, experts and rivals would like to know the answer.

Weak second half of a season – not for the first time. And so far the reason was obvious . Thiem is/was pure clay specialist but he makes some progress every year in the hard court season. With a bit of luck could have been better this year.

And right now we get ans answer from Dominic and his coach Bresnik. Not really – a kind of half-an-answer. And such an answer means , we have 50% chance to understand it correctly. 50% is just as much as with coin toss. Or making a weather forecast from the ceiling.

Well, this is equal to nothing. We know only, what we can see ourselves, when watching matches. And this is limited by our knowledge of tennis and/or own playing experience, so we can find out something meaningful.

Never mind – if we don’t want to stay in a fog and we don’t, being Dominic’s fans or followers, we must look after some logical reference points. There are some. I will start the article just with naming some of reference points, which I find to be good enough to start a meaningful analyse.

  • Bodily issues
  • Mental issues
  • Balance between learning and execution
  • Age and stage of the career
  • Relation between the Mastercoach and the player
  • “Information policy”

Now I will try to briefly analyse all these points and if it works, to create a general image of the situation. I must state it clearly and this applies to everything I will write here – it’s only my personal opinion, based on my observations, experience as amateur player on on general logic.

Because this article is only written in parts and still updated, I would welcome your ideas and comments. You can place them as comments or via contact form. Thank you for any help. This is just thought to help our fave and to help ourselves to understand him better 🙂

Bodily issues

Even with that extremely introvert young man, who makes everything to not show his weak points or issues of any kind, a careful observer can find many things out . This is called body language.

It’s telling much especially for a tennis player. And this is why this is the first point to analyze, because we are about to get from  Dominic and Bresnik just a half of an-answer.

Over the whole season 2017 I couldn’t see in the matches no special bodily issues. Here and there a bit tired, but this is not a problem, a normal part of the business. Here and there some minor things. One gets blister on feet and hands – is a part of this “hand(and feet)icraft. Nothing more actually. No medical time-outs on court. All matches finished, no retirements. First in the match against Gasquet in Vienna it was visible, that Dominic could not move normally anymore. Why? This is something, you cannot and you should not guess.

But we should be informed in a form acceptable for Dominic’s team. It’s not a shame and the most fans are able to understand and accept. This can be hardly held secret against rivals. They know everything after some minutes, because they experience often same or similar things.

So it’s a riddle. Especially because 1 day after the statement about pulling-out from Paris because of health issues Dominic (? or Bresnik?) decides to play there. Is Dominic suddenly healthy? No, he is not, bat ATP does not allow skipping mandatory Masters if you are not dead? Goes he to Paris only to fulfill the obligation and lose once more the first match? Any sense here?

And Dominic is just known to be the hardest worker on tour (in terms of a number of tournaments played and in terms of training time absolved.

And to finish this point – my assumption.

If there is actually some bodily issue, it’s rather not a creeping injury but maybe some illness. We know, that as a junior Dominic was infected with some exotic virus, which could have ruined his career. Hopefully not this scenario. Some from you may recall similar problems of young von Federer with a mono virus – just in his prime time. Somehow it’s almost forgotten history, costing him only (!) maybe some grand slams.

29.10.2017 – well, and now we get the second half-an-answer from Bresnik. Is this way everything explained? Not necessarily. Rather some new questions emerge. I will analyze them  under “Information policy”,


Mental issues

Human mentality is individual. And the problem of “mental strength” is well-known in performance sports, especially in fighting sports .Tennis belongs to this category, even if opponents don’t hit (mostly) each other, but only the ball. Mental strength in tennis is expressed first of all in critical situations, so called pressure points. This problem is explained (for the case “Thiem”) in the linked article.

But Thiem was (almost) always seen as mentally strong one. Me

aybe a mistake. He possesses strong personality, is maybe more matured than other players in his age, but at the same time introvert and shy (his own words). He misses so calles killer instinct. I not oriented on the opponent but on the ball and the court. Looks always calm and focused, but being an introvert type, he shows almost never his negative emotions (which you cannot avoid)  resulting in not being able to easily unload them. There are players with generally mean skills, which can beat anyone on their ON days. This looks differently with Dominic like. He must not only feel better than the opponent in terms of tennis skills , but also somehow compensate for the higher mental strength of the opponent. Thiem himself can play only that successful , how good his skills are. Many players are good in using different psycho-tricks and able to reach more than their playing skills would allow. They take “tactical” medical time-outs or have long discussions with the umpire while the opponent is just leading and waiting to serve. This leads to losing focus before serve. Dominic uses never such tricks. And I hope, he does not change this noble habit.

Just in the current season Dominic has lost for the same reason so many big matches – against Berdych on Wimbledon, against del Potro in US Open, against Djokovic in Rome. And many more.  How can he overcome his problem? Probably only by developing his tennis skills all the time. Maybe it’s just like he needed to be better than Federer in every aspect of the game to beat regularly Top10 players.

This is not a subject of this article (look here) , but I think, he should accept Federer’s offer to join for  preparation for the season of 2018. At least partly, because he needs more training units (and Federer knows this for sure)  and Fed is not someone, with whom you cannot find the common way.

Conclusion – in the usual understanding of the term Thiem is not mentally strong. He  gets strong mainly or only by his tennis skills. To win, he needs to be a lot better than the opponent. Not a bad way. But long and hard. The advantage – a solid foundation remains for life.

Balance between learning and execution

Thiem is one of most diligent players on tour. He loves to play but he loves also to learn. We know this in details from Bresnik’s book “Dominic-Thiem-Methode” (unfortunately not available in English so far).  Bresnik needed just a certain Thiem to apply the method. If there was not Thiem, Bresnik would never find the right “material” worldwide.  Well, maybe Federer, but this one has learned earlier and elsewhere and he does it still – at the age of 36, which is maybe one of most important secrets of his long and illustrious career.  The best way of all. But there is a price .to pay for. Young Thiem was required to pay it over some years of his junior career, while Bresnik switched him from double- to single-handed backhand and the “always hit a winner” style. He was required to wait some years before it started to pay dividends.

30.10.2017 – well, the story develops faster than I can type. Now comes the third half-an-answer from Thiem-Team Dominic is indeed not healthy but playing Paris on cost of his health to eventually collect some points helping to overtake Thomas Muster in the stats of age when reaching TOP5 for the first time. Insane!!! Has there nobody a simple calculator to count points, Thiem can really gain in Paris as compared with London, where he could be healthy if skipping Paris? 

I do assume, that  2017 a second revolution took place. Namely learning of the hard court game. On clay he can everything right now and does not need much to finally win the highest trophies.  For example he must learn, how to behave mental strength after beating top-form Nadal to beat even harder a half-Djokovic 😉

Now the difference between both revolutions is that during the first one Dominic was still junior and to be the best as junior is ,not a goal, only intermediate point on the bigger way.

So far I could observe , over the whole season 2017 this second revolution comes soon to an end. Many elements are  (mastered right now (flat serve, more and better play at the net, return just from baseline, not 3-4 meters behind, aggressive returns (I call them SRBD – Swinging Return By Dominic – something similar to Federer’s SABR).

Right now is Dominic still a bit confused and his decisions during the match not optimal. But he will have all the carts in his hands very soon and must then only (?) learn, when and how must every card be played. So maybe the common season’s preparation for 2018 with Federer is a good idea? According to Bresnik in the preparation everything must turn around Dominic. Which is not possible with Federer. Not necessarily. Federer chose Dominic as partner for a reason. Not to use him as “supporter”. Federer can do both – to give younger players from his extreme experience and at the same time to learn from the young, what’s new in tennis. Pure advantage for both parts. It’s a pity, if ThiemTeam didn’t try to “negotiate” with Federer  about details of such a program. Federer will probably not need to prepare for clay, but Dominic needs preparation for grass and hard. Where can he get any better? Once more – all should turn around Dominic. Right, but who would be the satellites? With all due respect – Dennis Novak, Sebastian Offner, Philipp Kohlschreiber? What can Dominic learn from them?  They can learn from him, so maybe Dominic would turn around others. Goffin – the only one valuable partner for learning. Would it not make sense to arrange a camp involving all three: Federer, Dominic and David?

And back to the title – balance between learning and execution is possible on a training camp, not on tour, where the goal is to win so much it goes,  so the execution is the highest rule. If someone can still learn at the same time – is an extra advantage.

Age and stage of a career

In terms of a professional tennis career Dominic is no more young (young are those, who will play in). So the fire of youth is and must bed disappearing slowly or at least changing. At the same time he is yer far from being old. To be old in tennis must not mean  30+ but look, how many 30+ reach first at this age their biggest achievements (for example Wawrinka), how many are still in Top20 and will probably remain there for some more years? Look guys like Dimitrov, Goffin or Carreno Busta. Their tennis is maturing first now, at 25+. Shortly before they have had some deep crises, now they go upright with success. How many years needs still Dominic to be old in this sense? Maybe 1 or 2 years. There is some general rule but everyone is an individual personality. For one the prime time comes with 25, for other first just before 30. This is something to wait for, but as active as possible. This is just Dominic’s way and he and his fans need to be patient for a while.

Relation between mastercoach and the player

This is principally clear, for sure for all readers of the Bresnik’s book.  And rare thing among tennis players. A deep, strong and long relation.  The same coach over more than 15 years, you fill not find many such cases on tour.  There must be a strong friendship too. With Dominic and his family (Dominic’s father is an assistant coach in Bresnik’s academy  and of course his second coach. Until about 2 years ago Bresnik was travelling everywhere with Dominic.  Now Bresnik appears principally only on grand slams and other biggest tournaments, sometimes more, but only in Europe. He has a good reason for this (family) and  nobody can complain. But this is still a problem for Dominic. Because Bresnik is still the master coach. It’s him, who decides about most important things, only no more travelling all the way.

Can this have an impact on Dominic’s performance? Of course it can. It’s just evident. This year Dominic played his best in big tournaments. I don’t know by heart the list of tournaments, where Bresnik was present. But I know, if he’s absent, there are more problems.

Letting details aside – some good solution is required. For now, and for the future. Many fans are thinking and expressing, Dominic should change the coach.  But IMO Bresnik will be always the best one for Dominic, so long he is professionally active.  So, we need another solution. Bresnik in Vienna and off-season training no matter where plus grand slams and Masters in Europe? And father as travelling assistant coach?  Can it go well with the father? The key is not how good coach he is, but just that he is a father. We know from experience that since some age (different for different players) the father-coach does not fit anymore.

Maybe it would be optimal to look for another person as travelling coach (but then for the whole season)? Of course a good contact with Thiem and with Bresnik would be necessary. Not an easy task. Or maybe Bresnik rethinks and decides for one or two seasons to travel more with Domini? Especially in the second half of a season, in which more support for Dominic is needed, so long his hard court game is not yet matured.

Some players decide in similar situations to come up without a coach for a while. Would it be good for Dominic? 24 years old man must decide it himself.

Information policy

And now the last point. Important for fans and other people, interested for Thiem. Including media, called by Bresnik “silly” (may be true in many cases). But should media report trueth and spread reliable information about Thiem, they need some dependable knowledge about facts. Which ones and when – that’s the question. This year the information policy of Thiem-Team was IMO substantially false.

What should the fans feel and the media report, if we all become to know right now, that Dominic has some health issues since Monte Carlo Masters? I fit lasts so long and disturbs him so much, that he loses so many matches, he was actually going to win, so there are two big problems. The more important – why there was no adequate medical intervention as the issue started?

How is it possible, that the master coach does not know about the problem (Bresnik’s words)? Hard to believe, because since Monte Carlo there were so many training sessions home and so many tournaments, where Bresnik was present. I can recall a statement from Bresnik after some lost match, which principally should have been wo, that he doesn’t know, what happens in Dominic’s head. Well, this can he and should he. Not literally of course.

But he must somehow recognize problems, about which Dominic is not ready to speak about with anyone. Also not with the physio? The physio (and Dominic has a very good one) must know about such problems as open wounds on feet. And be able to help. And tell Dominic, when it’s time to make a pause for a treatment. Hard to believe, Mr. Stober, an excellent physio, not to know only because Dominic is not ready to speak about.

And finally, a common viewpoint of a fan. I have 100% respect for Dominic’s personality. It’s his choice, what to tell us and what not. But somehow, he could think sometimes about us fans. Our support for him is unlimited. We want to see him winning. We want to see him happy and smiling. But we need to know only so much, that we can understand, why he has just some problem and cannot win. Or he cannot/want not tell us? Is OK too, we remain his warm-hearted fans (maybe with a bit less understanding ;)).

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5 Replies to “WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIEM – ONE RIDDLE TOO MUCH?”

  1. whatever happened in 2017 is repeating itself in 2018 if the major problem is his health status Dominic has done everything he can do to combat it but often it just is not enough winning 12 million dollars in tennis by age 25 is quite an achievement already a loyal fan dr alf

  2. Welcome ALAN 🙂
    There will be always riddles, because it’s not only hard competition but also big business. Dominic may think what he wants but cannot be fully free from “sport politics”.
    Generally I agree with you. Whatever we speculate, we never know enough to be sure.
    I can even imagine, it was Bresnik’s decision to “skip” somehow grass (Dominic is too young to skip any slam being a mandatory event). Of course the fall is an incident, for sure not a scenario.
    I believe, Dominic has now the game for grass too, but cannot have big wins on every surface every year (like Djokovic did, but this ended with longer blackout).
    For my taste Dominic should first totally focus on winning Roland Garros. After this happens and maybe starts to repeat (after Nadal retires or his form definitely decreases), he can first think about winning other slams, but then shrinking his clay season and go for Australian Open or US Open.

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