Dominic Thiem at an impasse? Barbara Schett gives hope to Austrian despite ‘shock’ defeat

When Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev last met in mid-October last year, the downside was sucked in pretty quickly. In the semi-finals of the Gijón Open, Rublev took the upper hand (6:4, 6:4).

No new experience for Thiem, who has already lost the three previous duels with the Russian in straight sets. In the 2020 ATP Finals group stage, Rublev won 6:2, 7:6, shortly before Thiem had to retire against Rublev in front of a home crowd at the Vienna Open (6:7, 2 :6), in July 2019 it was said Hamburger Rothenbaum 6:7, 6:7 from Thiem’s ​​point of view.

Anticipation for the 29-year-old should have been equally low when the draw landed him another meeting with Rublev at the Australian Open. Thiem, who received a wildcard from the organizers ahead of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, is due to start straight away against the world number five.

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“It was definitely a shock for the two of them to play against each other in the first round,” former top ten player Barbara Schett said in an interview. Eurosport. Rublev is a ‘huge obstacle’ for Thiem. Schett adds in view of the current form of the winner of the US Open from 2020: “Dominic’s start in Australia was not optimal, in Adelaide he failed in qualifying against Kwon Soon-woo (4 :6, 1:6, d. Red. ) I think he comes into the match against Rublev as an underdog.”

Hand injury leaves its mark on Thiem

This opinion should not be exclusive to Schett. While Rublev won four ATP tournaments last year, Thiem struggled to defend himself on the tour. However, only with moderate success. Obviously, the serious wrist injury that put Thiem out of action between June 2021 and March 2022 had left its mark.

Dominic Thiem – Winston Salem

Photo credit: Getty Images

“Dominic is still working on his comeback. He needs games and a bit more time,” Schett explains and asks, “We should give him that time.” From Schett’s perspective, there are reasons why comeback efforts so far have been somewhat difficult: “I think it’s an individual story how quickly a player comes back after a long injury. Rafael Nadal, for example, doesn’t take a long time. He takes a six-month break and then wins a Grand Slam tournament.”

This is “not the case” with Thiem. Schett continues: “He is gaining confidence through hard training and many matches.” The Eurosport expert believes that Thiem’s ​​situation did not deteriorate with the said injury, but shortly after the triumph at Flushing Meadows two and a half years ago. “It wasn’t easy for him. He had achieved his biggest goal with the Grand Slam triumph and then maybe the problem of setting new goals for himself. The air was a bit off.”

Schett: “He rediscovered his love for tennis”

During his absence, tennis has also “developed”. Young players like Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner or Holger Rune push upwards. But Schett also harbors hopes in the case of Thiem. “He has rediscovered his love for tennis. From my point of view, he still has a lot to do. I hope for him that he will start soon – at the latest at the start of the clay court season. Because: If you always lose, your self-confidence suffers.”

Thiem exclusively on the fight for the old force: “It was the most difficult thing”

Thiem himself is cautiously optimistic ahead of the start of the Australian Open: “I’m glad I put my injury behind me, physically I feel good,” he said recently. He added: “I’m ready to play a Grand Slam, but I don’t know how good I am. It’s always difficult to go far in a Grand Slam. All the players are at a high level. But I had one. Good preparation, so we’ll wait and see.”

“Some days nothing works in Rublev”

In any case, Thiem shouldn’t allow himself too much adaptation time in Melbourne in view of his top-notch opponent. Fear opponent Rublev should show up in top physical shape from the start. However, Schett also knows that the Moscow native can always find bushes.

“With Rublev, you never know what to expect from him. He’s obviously in the top ten players, but some days he’s not well.” Thiem certainly wouldn’t defend himself against such a scenario.

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