Former World No. 3 Dominic Thiem feels that he is ready to step up his progress when he competes in just his second tour-level event of the season this coming week at the Millennium Estoril Open.
The Austrian suffered a tear in his right wrist last June, which kept him out for the rest of 2021. But he returned to the ATP Tour at the Serbia Open in Belgrade last week, showing signs of promise during his defeat to Australian John Millman in his opening match.
“I feel much better already than Belgrade. The improvement is there every single day,” Thiem said. “In practice points I’m still having troubles — not with the wrist, the wrist is fine also in points — but [in] all the movement, all the reaction, all the anticipation, I’m still not 100 per cent yet. It will take many more matches until I’m back at the top level there. So I’m not feeling capable of winning this tournament.
“But every match is super important to me now. I’m going to try my best, I’m going to fight 100 per cent from the first to the last point, even when I’m not playing my best tennis, which can happen. And that’s it. I have low expectations this week and also the next ones to come. But obviously I’m trying everything to win and I’m going to see what comes out at the end.”
While the 28-year-old understands that he will take time to return to his best, he is excited to be able to compete and train with those at the top of the game once again as he looks to build his fitness heading towards Roland Garros in May.
“Of course it’s the matches which I need, but also it’s the practice sessions with top players and those you can only get [at] the tournaments,” Thiem said. “I think that they are as important to get used to the pace again, to get used to the fast movements again, anticipation, reaction, that’s so important.
“The first short-term goal to be in a decent shape again is the French Open. I’m definitely not going to be a favorite there, but maybe I can win some matches there and if I face a top opponent, maybe I can give him a hard match. That’s the short-term goal. To make big things, I think I’m going to have to wait until the second part of the season.”
Thiem has not earned a tour-level win since May 2021, when he defeated Marton Fucsovics in Rome. The 2020 US Open champ will be eager to change that record when he faces Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi in his opening match at the ATP 250 clay-court event.
Thiem, who also played at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Marbella in March, has produced some of the best tennis of his career on clay, clinching 10 of his 17 tour-level titles on the surface. The Austrian will make his debut in Estoril this week after accepting a wild card.
“I have only been once in this country before,” Thiem said when discussing his reasoning for playing in Estoril. “When I’m traveling all around the world I want to visit all the countries, all the cities, so it was easy to choose this tournament.”