Dominic Thiem: “The next big goal is the French Open”
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Twenty-five years after Thomas Muster, the Austrian tennis community can once again celebrate a Grand Slam winner. Dominic Thiem discusses pressure, nerves before the final, and his next goal.
What was going through your head after winning the first Grand Slam title of your career?
Dominic Thiem: I've had a couple of days to reflect and let it all sink in. It feels no less wonderful than right after the triumph. It actually feels even better now that I've had a chance to shake off fatigue. I now even dare to look back on the match against Sascha Zverev. It was impossible to do so in the first few days after that thriller of a final, because it was simply too exciting and dramatic. I had the weird feeling that, if I reflect on it, I might still lose the match after all. Luckily, that has now passed – and the victory still feels absolutely brilliant.
You've ended three years of dominance by the Big Three. Since Stan Wawrinka won the US Open in 2016, nobody except Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer has won a Grand Slam. Now you've claimed your place in that group. How does it feel?
Being the first 'new' Grand Slam winner in what seems like an eternity feels really good. However, I wouldn't claim to have ended the dominance. Novak, Rafa and Roger remain favourites in every tournament they compete in. Even next week, when the French Open starts in Paris, Nadal and Djokovic are the ones to beat.
How was the experience in general at Flushing Meadows?
The whole tournament was, of course, extraordinary and required some getting used to. The US Open of 2020 was a very special Grand Slam tournament. The Flushing Meadows arena was completely devoid of spectators and remaining inside the 'bubble' required a coronavirus test every three days. The daily schedule played out between the hotel and the tennis courts. I didn't even see New York, not even a single short trip into the city. Everything was focused on tennis, maybe even too focused without a real chance to clear your mind. That was very challenging, because you were never allowed out. From a mental perspective, those four weeks were extremely demanding for me and my team. The fact that the conditions were so unique almost makes this year’s victory a touch more special.
When looking back, at which point did you start sensing that winning this US Open tournament was more than just a possibility?
The faith that I could win a Grand Slam tournament was something I had long before the US Open. That's why I put myself under so much pressure. Moreover, I harboured the belief that my first Grand Slam victory could happen at this particular US Open throughout the tournament. Naturally, the circumstances changed when Novak Djokovic was eliminated from the tournament. From that moment on it was crystal clear: there will be a new winner. I knew the player who could cope best with the pressure would win this Grand Slam title. I didn't handle the pressure particularly well in the final, but I managed to turn the game around in the end. It was just incredible.
Following the disqualification of Novak Djokovic, the general public considered you the new favourite. How did you manage to deflect the pressure and remain centred?
I knew that I had a great chance of winning the US Open 2020, provided I played really well and managed to perform at my top level. I was able to block out the fact that this was the best chance to win a Grand Slam tournament in the quarter-final and semi-final stages. The final, however, was really tough for me mentally. I honestly think I have never been more nervous and tense before a match. Fortunately, I was able to turn the tide just in time.
What's your next goal?
The answer is quite simple: the French Open starting this weekend! It may even be to my advantage that the next Grand Slam takes place so soon after the US Open. Now that I've won a Grand Slam final, I can finally 'tick off' one of the biggest aspirations of my career. Starting immediately, I am fully focused on my clay game and the French Open. My goal is to start the first round of the tournament 100 percent fresh.
Should Rafa be worried ahead of the French Open? Does he need to change anything given the temperatures will be lower than in summer…
The temperatures are the only reason why things could be different. Naturally, everyone was a little curious to see how Rafa would play at the Masters tournament in Rome. If he comes into the French Open in good shape, he is always the favourite to win in Roland Garros – not least because he's already won the tournament 12 times! Obviously, I would be very excited about playing against him.
Dominic, what else would you like to say to your fans? They cheered you on in Austria, more often than not turning night into day while watching your matches on ServusTV or via livestreams.
First of all I would like to send a huge thank you to all tennis enthusiasts who cheered me on, especially the fans who stayed awake deep into the night and probably sacrificed one or two workdays. The fans at home are always very important to me. They may have been even more valuable than usual at this year’s US Open, because knowing that there are so many people watching on TV at home definitely helped me secure the title at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.
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