01:39 AM GMT November 23, 2020
Dominic Thiem is determined to continue targeting the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings and keep perspective after being denied the Nitto ATP Finals title for a second year in a row, falling in a thrilling three-set clash against Daniil Medvedev on Sunday night.
The World No.3 led the Russian by a set and held break chances in two of his opponent’s service games in the second set. But just as Stefanos Tsitispas did to Thiem in last year’s final, Medvedev fought his way back and roared to a 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory at The O2.
Having had time to reflect on the ‘would have’, ‘could have’ and ‘should haves’, Thiem said that there’s not much he would have done differently against Medvedev in their fifth FedEx Head2Head clash. If the Austrian was going to go down, he was happy he did it while playing his game.
“Honestly, I would do the same again, play a lot of slice,” Thiem reflected in his post-match press conference. “The way he broke me in the third set was an unreal game. He put great returns in. I had [a] few chances to convert that game. He played some great rallies there.
“Probably if you look at the whole tournament, he was the best player,” Thiem added. “He didn't lose a set in the group stage. Beat No. 2 and No. 3 players in the world in the semis and in the final, so he definitely deserved that title.”
The loss will surely sting after leading by a set in the final - and having to fight past two heavyweights in Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the two top-ranked players in the world to even reach that stage. But the Austrian was quick to put things in perspective after a rollercoaster 2020 season that saw him reach the biggest title of his career at the US Open, playing under unprecedented ‘bubble’ conditions due to COVID-19.
“When the tennis world, our job came back - I mean, luckily it came back - everything was different with life in the bubble, playing without [a] crowd. There were many, many new experiences,” Thiem reflected. “I think it is still a very tough year for many, many people. We athletes, and I'm speaking of tennis players, we are very privileged to do our jobs.
“If I speak about the tennis, if I speak about my job, I mean, it has been an outstanding year. I have reached one of my big lifetime goals with winning that Grand Slam.
“So even though it's a tough year, it will always have a special place in my heart this year, 100%.”
Last year, Thiem responded emphatically to his Nitto ATP Finals defeat by playing some of the best tennis of his career. The defeat seemed to galvanise him as he started the year with first Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, and after the Tour’s six-month break he continued to reach new heights with his US Open title, reaching his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking.
What could lie ahead in 2021? Far from satisfied with his No. 3 spot, Thiem said he’s determined to narrow the gap between him and the world’s best.
“It was still a very intense year, since the Tour returned [it] was super intense, so I haven't set myself any goals yet for next year,” he mused. “But of course I want to climb up the Rankings.
“I mean, this year and also [last] year has been amazing. I was playing great and had deep runs in many, many big tournaments. That's what I want to do as well next year. If I'm able to do that, I think I will also get chances to climb the Rankings.”