Why Is Dominic Thiem Facing Issues on Clay Unlike Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic?

Published 05/20/2021, 7:30 PM EDT
DOHA, QATAR – MARCH 11: Dominic Thiem of Austria reacts during his quarter final match with Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on March 11, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)


World No.4 Dominic Thiem is really struggling on tour at the moment. He recently suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Cameron Norrie in the first round of the Lyon Open 2021. Norrie completely thrashed him and Thiem failed to earn even a single break-point in the entire match. The final scoreline of the match was 3-6, 2-6.

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Dominic Thiem hasn’t been up to the mark in the clay-court season this year. The situation has got worsened up with him since his return on the tour after a short break. One major problem in his gameplay is that the Austrian player is not able to dominate in the first set. Interestingly, since his comeback at the Mutua Madrid Open 2021, Thiem has won the first set in only one of his eight matches so far.

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The same story repeated itself today too as he lost the first set to Cameron Norrie. As a result, he failed to gain any sort of lead or momentum in the match and eventually lost it in straight sets.

Thiem is certainly lacking the intent to attack right from the beginning. He comes under enormous pressure after losing the first set and then it is difficult to make a comeback every time. In the only match he won the first set, he managed to do so by saving a set-point after the set went into the tie-breaker- against Alex de Minaur at the Madrid Open 2021.

What do Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal do differently as compared to Dominic Thiem?

In comparison to Thiem, if one looks at Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the difference is quite visible. Tennis is a mental sport as well just like any other sport and if one fails to exert any sort of mental pressure, winning the match becomes a mammoth task.

Dominic Thiem of Austria and Rafael Nadal of Spain embrace at the net following their Men’s Singles Quarterfinal match. Day ten of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

In his last three clay-court tournaments- namely Barcelona Open, Madrid Open, and the Italian Open 2021, Rafa played a total of 13 matches. Surprisingly, he lost the first set on just three occasions. He managed to make a comeback two times while suffered a defeat on the third occasion.

On the other hand, Djokovic played 10 matches in his last three clay-court tournaments- Monte Carlo Masters, Serbian Open, and the Italian Open 2021. He lost the first set four times and lost the match on three such occasions.

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Dominic Thiem of Austria shakes hands with Novak Djokovic of Serbia after beating him. Day 7 of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 Arena on November 21, 2020, in London, England. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

It is clear from the above stats that it is even laborious for the best players to win a match after losing the first set. That is why they give their best in the first set and try to win the mental battle against their opponents there only.

Thiem surely needs to work and devise ways to win the first set of the match. The Austrian will now head to Paris for the French Open 2021. Having been a 2-time runner-up of the major, can Thiem finally end up on the winning side this year?

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DIVE DEEPER

“A Huge Step Back”: Dominic Thiem Expressed Disappointment Over Shock Loss to Cameron Norrie at Lyon Open 2021

about 1 month ago

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Anshul Singh

957 articles

Anshul Singh is a tennis author at EssentiallySports, currently pursuing Journalism Honors from Delhi University. Having significant experience with content, Anshul has authored over 500 tennis articles. He has previously worked as a writer and an editor for DU Express, penning riveting articles on sports, politics, and culture.

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