Twelve months ago, Austrian Dominic Thiem earned $848 for a week’s worth of work: the finals of a Futures event in Croatia, where he was ranked No. 304.
Today he plays in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open, his first-ever Masters 1000 event, for $52,000 and another milestone in what has been a year of achievements for the 20-year-old.
“I spend most of my time indoors in Vienna, so it’s good to be outside once in a while,” Thiem said of his first-ever trip to the desert. In January he played in his maiden Grand Slam main draw. After this tournament, he’ll break into the top 100.
“It’s very difficult,” the qualifier told reporters after a second-round win over No. 21 seed Gilles Simon. “I think it’s easier to keep yourself in the top 100 than to come into it because of the [rankings system] and fitness. You just need more years to build up the fitness level to compete at the top.”
At just 20, Thiem hasn’t had many years, but has slowly become a name to watch on the ATP World Tour. In February he qualified into the Rotterdam main draw and beat Jarkko Nieminen before falling to Andy Murray in three sets. Last October, Thiem pushed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets in the quarterfinals of Vienna, his home tournament.
The beaming six-foot-one Thiem has been pouring his heart out on social media, chronicling his achievements for all his fans to see: from his run here to the months of build-up before.
“A great day for me,” posted Thiem on his Facebook page. “Third round in my first ever [Masters 1000]. Simply incredible. Thanks so much for your support, it obviously helps me a lot!”
As he makes his way down a career checklist, the Lichtenwörth, Austria, native isn’t quite ready to enjoy the fruits of his labor – not fully.
“Not yet, because everything is new,” he said. “Every tournament is a new tournament for me. I think you can start to enjoy it when you’ve played it three or four times.”
Thiem is coached by Gunter Bresnik, whom he shares with Latvian Ernests Gulbis, the world No. 22. Both athletes train in Vienna.
“It’s very nice that we have the same coach [as Gulbis],” Thiem explained. “When I started with Bresnik, I was still ranked in the 700s. I learned a lot from Ernests. We are together every day; we travel to the same tournaments. I think it’s good for me, but it’s also good for him that he has a good hitting partner.”
In addition, his fitness trainer is sportsman Sepp Resnik, whose background in “Super Ironman” competitions informs his running and endurance training regimen for Thiem, mostly done outdoors.
The training and dedication to his tennis has helped Thiem achieve what few of his peers have been able to do.
And now that he’s knocking on the door of the upper echelon of the game, he’s focused on making sure that he learns from each opportunity.
“These matches are the most important,” said Thiem. “You learn the most from them and this is why I’m excited to play the big tournaments.”
While he didn’t have any specific tennis players to count as his idols – “I watched all of them when I was growing up” – he’s inspired by the players who’ve used their celebrity to make a difference.
“There are many guys, big sportsmen who also try to help the world in general because they have a big influence, like Roger Federer or some soccer players because they try to help the world in a better way, and that’s pretty inspiring.”
Thiem set a goal for himself of making the main draw at Roland Garros, and his points from Indian Wells should make this a reality. Thiem has now set his sights on something closer to his heart.
“The goal now is to win the home tournaments, in Vienna and Kitzbuhel,” he declared. “It’s my dream to win one of them. Maybe this year, but we’ll see.”
RAPID-FIRE WITH THIEM
The last text you sent: A big thank you. All my family members wrote me [after the match]
Close friends on tour: Jurgen Melzer because he’s Austrian. Besides him I don’t know any players yet. Just the young players, like Jiri Vesely or Ernests Gulbis.
Window or Aisle: Window
Morning or evening: Evening.
Cats or dogs: Dogs
Favorite tennis trick shot: The drop shot that comes back over the net. I try it often.
Favorite Australian food: Wienerschnitzel
Favorite food from the Indian Wells cafeteria: The pasta is pretty good.
Sky or ocean: Ocean