Mats Wilander thinks the French Open has come at the perfect time for Dominic Thiem to get back his motivation, and says if he doesn’t it could start a slide in his career.
Thiem reached the peak of his tennis career in 2020, climbing to third place in the world rankings and winning his maiden Grand Slam at the US Open.
It was thought he would continue to rise in 2021, building on the momentum and competing for further Grand Slam titles but instead, his form dropped.
After failing to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals, he had early exits in Doha and Dubai before taking a few weeks out of the sport to ‘reset’ his motivation and mentality.
The Austrian made a successful return in Madrid reaching the semi-finals, but then failed to make any impact in Rome and Lyon and goes into Roland Garros with a big question mark over whether he is physically and mentally prepared.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander says he understands the difficulties that Thiem is experiencing, as he went through similar in his own career.
“I think it’s the effects of winning your first Major when you are as old as he was,” Eurosport expert Wilander said.
“And obviously over the years that has been the goal of his whole tennis career is to win a Major somehow even though he is up against the three best players of all time.
“Throw Andy (Murray) in there, so maybe the four best players of all time even though Andy has only won three.
“So then Dominic Thiem suddenly wins one and then it’s more difficult to find the motivation because number two is never as attractive as number one, so I think it’s normal situation for him to lose a little bit of motivation.”
Wilander believes that Roland Garros provides the perfect opportunity for Thiem to regain his focus and composure on his favourite surface at an event he has previously performed well at.
“I think that the French Open comes at a perfect time because this is his surface. It’s all a matter of has he has kept training whilst he has lost his motivation to play matches and to live, or die an athlete’s death.
“Has he kept training with the right motivation? And I only speak from experience there as I managed to do that after 1988.
“I kept training the same way and I just didn’t have the same motivation day in day out to win matches, but I think that’s what he’s fighting against.
“I think we are comparing him to Novak and Roger and Rafa. I mean those guys motivation is through the roof. They help each other – they are lucky to have each other.
“For Dominic I think it is a natural progression. I do think if he doesn’t perform at the French Open then it will be interesting to see if he starts sliding a little bit in terms of everything.
“This is time to get back on the horse it is not too late but this is a good time.”
For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.
Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?