The price of greatness is something that only the great can tell us about. Try as we might, we mere mortals cannot understand the sacrifice and the pain endured on the road to becoming great.
We can only sit back and watch from afar.
For Dominic Thiem, his price of greatness comes in the form of a damaged wrist and uncertainty as to whether he will ever reach his lofty pre-injury heights again.
Having successfully become the first man born in the 1990s to win a grand slam at the 2020 US Open – and coming from two sets down to do so – Dominic Thiem is, for now, a shadow of the player he once was.
Thiem struggled with his form in 2021 boasting a meagre 9-9 singles record before succumbing to a wrist injury that sidelined the frank and pragmatic Austrian for eight months.
Returning to the tour in March 2022, Thiem looked a yard slow and unsure of himself as he endured an eight-match (and four-month) losing streak before finding his first win at the Challenger level in his native Salzburg, Austria.
Thiem’s struggle to recapture his best tennis serves as the perfect juxtaposition to Rafael Nadal’s ability to bounce back from injury and add to his record-breaking grand slam tally into perspective.
Having finally broken his duck, Thiem began to show glimpses of the version of himself that the tennis world adored. However, his results were largely rather modest with success limited to the ATP 250 and Challenger level.
In any event, hopes were high for the former Australian Open finalist who entered the Australian Open thanks to a wildcard despite re-entering the top 100 in January. A fresh off-season offered hope of seeing the Austrian revitalised and back to his best.
Yet, as fate would have it, Thiem drew 5th seed and good friend, Andrey Rublev in the first round.
While Thiem was solid early, he was no match for his Russian counterpart going down 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in just over two hours in Melbourne’s scorching heat.
Speaking post-match, Thiem conceded he was no match for Rublev after picking up what appears to be an abdominal issue in the second set despite being happy with how he started.
“I was playing pretty well. The match was close, was open, and I was also happy with that performance” Thiem explained.
“It happened at one serve in the second set. The sun was [affecting me]. I was in a tough position to serve, so I completely changed the toss, and something happened after at the abs or at the ribs.”
When pressed, Thiem admitted that despite being 10 months into his comeback, he is still working on getting to a point where he believes he can beat the world’s best players once again.
“That's the ultimate goal, and I hope that I can do it now during this season if I have a draw like that, like here in Australia against a top-10 player, top-5 seed to go out on the court and to believe that I can win it.”
Unsurprisingly, in continuing his climb up the ranks, Thiem will follow the ATP Tour to South America where he hopes to have better success on his preferred clay courts as he continues to trust his process and ability to climb the mountain once again.
“This tournament doesn't change anything because I just had a really tough opponent.
“The shots today were completely fine, obviously or you can feel that today is just a minor injury.
“Obviously it shouldn't happen in a match like that, in a Grand Slam match, but that's part of the game.
“But, yeah, the direction doesn't really change after that defeat. I’ll try to go forward and, [be] better in the next tournaments.”