What Makes the ‘Prince of Clay’ Dominic Thiem a Big Threat on Hard Courts?

November 22, 2020 1:50 pm

When Dominic Thiem started his professional career, it did not take long for him to be viewed as a future star of the sport. He showed the skills he possesses and made many players stand up and take notice. Rafael Nadal predicted back in 2014 that Thiem would be a top player one day, despite the Austrian player winning just seven games in all in their first-ever match.

Thiem’s abilities shone brightly on clay courts, while he largely struggled on other surfaces. Nine of his first 10 titles came on clay as he made his way up the ranks. But he was back in the shadows during major tournaments on other surfaces, especially the hard courts.

However, five of Thiem’s last seven titles on the ATP Tour have come on hard-courts, including a Grand Slam title. At the same time, his game on clay got even better. Thiem is now considered one of the best players in the world and equally dangerous on any surface.

Tennis – ATP Finals – The O2, London, Britain – November 21, 2020 Austria’s Dominic Thiem reacts during his semi-final match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

The first big display of what Thiem can do on a hard court against the best players was the 2019 Indian Wells Masters. Thiem battled past hard-court specialists, before shocking Roger Federer in the final. His first big title came on a hard-court.

Thiem’s stunning one-handed backhand

The 27-year-old’s backhand has fast become one of the most lethal shots in tennis. Every player has that one shot which is his go-to shot under pressure and for Thiem, it is his backhand. However, Thiem’s one-handed backhand is better than the best shot of most players.

The pace and accuracy he is able to generate with that shot throws all his opponents into a very uncomfortable position on the court. Thiem’s tendency to take calculated risks on hard-courts has also gone up over the last couple of seasons, and that is a key play on the surface.

While the backhand is his most lethal shot, it is important to note that his forehand and other variations are also highly effective. Another shot Thiem uses very well on hard courts is the slice backhand. A feature of Thiem’s game this week at the ATP Finals 2020 and the US Open 2020 was how well he is able to change the pace of a rally with that shot.

He then forces his opponents into a position on the court that then allows him to unleash his power-packed groundstrokes.

Dominic Thiem has fast become a big-match player

Thiem’s ability to serve big on the big points is also up there with the best. The Austrian star is not someone who possesses a huge pacy serve. However, the accuracy and ability to hit the corners and lines consistently is quite impressive. The same goes with his groundstrokes and he finds the lines more often than missing them.

When playing on the fast hard-courts, the return of serve becomes a differentiating factor. It would be safe to say that Thiem is one of the best returners in the world at the moment.

He does not just get the ball back in the court. But the depth of his return gives him the advantage to dictate the rallies.

Can Thiem end 2020 with another huge hard-court title?

This week at the ATP Finals, Thiem has time and again shown these qualities. For a player who used to rely on heavy top-spin on his shots earlier, he has also mastered the ability to hit the ball flat and quick as per the conditions.

Tennis – ATP 500 – Erste Bank Open – Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria – Austria’s Dominic Thiem in action during his quarter final match against Russia’s Andrey Rublev REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

While he will always remain a title contender on clay with his style of play, Thiem is a real threat on hard-courts too. On Sunday, he has a chance to grab another big title.

He has another crack at the ATP Finals title, after falling short in the 2019 final. While he faces another tricky opponent in Daniil Medvedev, Thiem is certainly the favorite.

READ MORENitto ATP Finals 2020: Dominic Thiem vs Daniil Medvedev Final Preview, Head-to-Head & Prediction

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