Turns out tennis isn't all that Dominic Thiem travels for
© Philipp Carl Riedl
In any normal year, the Austrian tennis pro travels the world for 11 months – but is it as glamorous as it looks? And can he combine a career with a passion for discovering new cities and cultures?
US Open champion Dominic Thiem frequently finds himself in many of the world’s greatest cities, often for weeks at a time.
The standard routine for most professional tennis players is simple. Airport – hotel – venue. Repeat the last two until the tournament is over, before swiftly returning to the airport and jetting off to the next tournament.
For Thiem though, who in 2019 played 22 tennis events in 15 countries, taking in the likes of Qatar, Australia, Brazil, China and the USA along the way, this isn't always the case.
The 27-year-old often takes the option of booking an extra day onto his stay to properly explore his surroundings and discover a new culture. He delights in sampling new restaurants, shops and museums.
“The first time I went to Tokyo, I loved it. So the second time I went, I wanted to explore it properly,” he reveals. “After my last match I stayed for one full extra day to see the city and do some sightseeing. In some cities, I really love to do that.”
Thiem hasn't visited the Japanese capital since October 2017 and despite his 2021 calendar not being confirmed yet, with the Olympics and an ATP event scheduled for the city next year, he may well be returning soon.
It's so much better with fans. They give you so much positive energy… Playing in full stadiums again will be amazing
“I can’t wait to go back. Restaurants are my favourite thing about big cities, being able to eat all the different foods. And also being able to go to all the shops I need. If there is a chance to go to a museum, exhibition or a concert, I will.”
When he's not clocking up thousands of miles on the tour, Thiem lives in Austria. Such is his love of foreign countries, he has a whole section on his personal website where he gives his views on locations from Reykjavik to Rio de Janeiro. Many of which tournaments were cancelled in 2020 due to the global pandemic.
“It didn’t feel right that we didn’t go to London to play so far this year, so I’m looking forward to going back for the Nitto ATP Finals in November,” he says. “I also love Rome, Barcelona and New York, so have tried to explore them more than just the venue and hotel.”
With the tour stretching across all four seasons, packing the right clothes for the ever-changing elements and staying comfortable both on the court, in the city, and travelling is a constant battle.
When he's on a plane, Thiem tries to drink as much as possible and stand up regularly to walk around and stretch. Travelling for holidays is fun, on the tour, less so.
“I don’t actually enjoy flying that much for tournaments,” he says. “Checking in at airports, hotels, living out of the suitcase, it isn’t that great, but you get used to it. It makes coming home even more special.”
One such challenge was at this year’s rescheduled French Open, played outdoors in October instead of the usual June.
“It was a very different experience. It was really cold on court,” Thiem remembers. “The temperature and the light were also very different. During the match, you sweat and get really warm, but then during the changeover you get really cold. I had to constantly try and get the body going.”
Both the French Open and the US Open, the latter where he captured his first Grand Slam in an empty New York in September, were played in front of no spectators. And for the World No 3, the return of fans is high on the wish list for 2021.
“It's so much better with fans. They give you so much positive energy. The first amazing thing at a tournament is to walk out into a packed stadium. Before even playing. Playing in full stadiums again will be amazing.”