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By Chris Oddo | Wednesday June 29, 2016

 
Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem credits his turn of fortune on grass to better movement and more attack.

Photo Source: Julian Finney/Getty

No that’s not your imagination—Dominic Thiem is blossoming as a grass-courter right before our very eyes this summer. The Austrian was a sketchy 2-6 on grass prior to 2016, but in he’s gone 7-1 this season with a title in Stuttgart that featured a win over Roger Federer, a semifinal in Halle and his second career Wimbledon victory today.

Watch: Zverev on Young Guns, Thiem is Already There

After his 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Florian Mayer, Thiem talked about what he thinks is making the difference for him on a surface that used to be problematic.

“I was feeling not comfortable all the last two years on grass,” he said. “I think the biggest difference this year is of course I got a lot of self confidence, but the biggest difference I think is my movement. I am much more down and much more stable.”

Thiem is rugged and country-strong, and he loves to take big swings from both wings. He’s well suited for clay for that reason, and because he typically plays very deep behind the baseline when in neutral rallies.

Many predicted that Thiem would struggle this summer on grass because of his court positioning and the fact his game is just not a natural fit for grass. But he’s worked hard to change that, and results are coming.

His court position hasn’t drastically changed this year, but his ability to track down and put good swings on balls has.

“The movement I think is the biggest difference to the other courts,” he said on Wednesday at Wimbledon. “It's soft. You have to stay low. The balls, they stay low. I think I'm moving much better over grass than the last two years.”

I asked Thiem if he is also taking a more offensive, surface-specific approach to his tennis of late. He appears to be serving and volleying more, and has displayed good touch at the net when he does work his way in. He said I wasn’t mistaken. “I'm doing a little bit more,” he said. “I also feel a little bit more comfortable on the net, so I'm not scared to play serve and volley couple times. Also the slice. I think it's a little bit more effective than the last year's. Last year's it was just a defensive stroke, and now at least nobody can hit me a winner on the slice. On grass it's one of the best shots.”


On Sunday at the Aorangi Park practice courts I saw Thiem work on putting tons of pace on the slice. He practiced as if he didn’t mind hitting way long, he just wanted to teach himself how to hit a really nasty slice that would befuddle on grass.

It’s this type of hard work and willingness to keep evolving that is helping Thiem push up the rankings. When asked what his goals were for the rest of the season now that he’s already cracked the Top 10, Thiem gave a practical answer. “Top 10 was a big milestone because it's so tough to reach,” he said. “You need so many points, so many good results. I think now my next big goal is just to stay there as long as possible, because maybe it's even tougher to stay there than to break into the top 10.”

Thiem will square off with Czech Jiri Vesely in the second round at Wimbledon. Thiem has defeated Vesely in each of their previous meetings, both on clay.

 

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