Austrian tennis star Dominic Thiem has revealed how he summons the mental strength to tame the demons inside and keep his level up week-in and week-out.
An unforgiving sport in more ways than one, modern-day tennis not only tests the limits of endurance, stamina, and fitness of players but also puts their mental side under stern examination, almost as if to see if their iron will remain unshakeable or wilt in the face of extreme stress.
Nick Kyrgios, for one, not only saw the dark side of tennis but lived through it as well. The maverick Australian came out with his struggles with depression last year, revealing how the game took him to a “dark place”.
Weighing in on the mental challenges of the game in an interview with a German publication, Thiem said, “The demons are there. I don’t know how it is for other players, I can’t look inside their heads.”
“For me, they are there almost every match. There are only a few matches where everything goes perfectly.”
The current World Number 3 further added that a player can feel helpless and lonely when losses pile up and the negative energy mutates into a hydra-headed monster, eating away at the self-belief, subsequently undermining the skill.
“Tennis is just a difficult sport mentally: because mistakes happen all the time, because you’re completely alone on the court, because you don’t necessarily have any influence on everything.
“You depend a lot on your opponent. And this whole combination of things makes it extremely difficult,” Thiem said.
He added that the best, and perhaps the only way to deal with the demons inside is to realize and accept that they are not going to go away.
“Once you’ve learned how to deal with your own demons, and accepted that they are not going to go away, it becomes easier. It has been working out better and better for me in the past couple of years,” the reigning US Open champion said.
Thiem, who had his first taste of Grand Slam glory last after playing three finals, will bid for his second Major title at the Australian Open. Incidentally, he was the losing finalist at Melbourne Park last year.