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Thiem Takes Positives from Painful AO Exit

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Final stages were once Dominic Thiem's domain.

These days, Thiem continues coping with starting stumbles.

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The 2020 Australian Open finalist suffered a strained abdominal or rib injury that inhibited his serve in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2  loss to fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in his AO opener.

Tennis Express

Afterward Thiem candidly conceded neither his frame nor his game is at the level required to topple a Top-5 seed like Rublev in a Grand Slam.

"Honestly, I don't think that even on my 100% I'm not able to beat Rublev yet or while he is top 5 seed here, even in a really fit situation," Thiem told the media in Melbourne. "I reckon it would be very, very tough to beat him and with the issue like the abs, it's going to be almost impossible."

It was Thiem's third straight Grand Slam opening-round exit and his fourth first-round loss in his last five majors.

Those results don't dim Thiem's commitment to the cause.

The 99th-ranked Austrian said he's all in on going onward and upward.

"But, yeah, the direction doesn't really -- it doesn't really change after that defeat," Thiem said. "I tried to go forward and, yeah, tried to make it better in next tournaments."

After enduring about a 10-month hiatus from the sport due to a chronic wrist injury, Thiem said he's optimistic he will find his form—if he stays healthy—and compete with the elite again.

"Of course, 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 court and to believe that I can win it," Thiem said.

If that sounds like a mission impossible, consider Thiem made history when he fought back from a two-set deficit to beat Alexander Zverev and capture the 2020 US Open title. Thiem joined Hall of Famer Pancho Gonzales as the only men in history to rally from a two-set deficit and win a US Open final.

The two-time Roland Garros runner-up aims to get in tune during the upcoming South American clay-court season.

"In the beginning [the comeback] was way tougher than I expected. Also, I was playing way worse than I was expecting, so it was a tough way back, but things changed," Thiem said. "Especially towards Autumn, towards the last tournament of the year. There I was playing pretty decent.

"As I said, this tournament doesn't change anything because I just had a really tough opponent. Yeah, I hope that I can improve the results at the South American clay."

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty