By Richard Pagliaro
Tennis is all about timing.
Admitted slow starter Dominic Thiem is hopeful Roland Garros’ best-of-five-set format will give him enough time to find his clay-court game and regain his confidence.
The two-time Roland Garros runner-up took a two-month break from the tour earlier this season to mentally recharge. Thiem arrives in Paris with a 4-3 clay-court record this season and lacked some of his standard intensity bowing to left-hander Cameron Norrie in his Lyon opener last week.
Consequently, Thiem hopes time can be his ally in Paris.
“That’s my hope, yeah. First of all, to work myself into that tournament, I definitely need to play better than I did last week in Lyon,” Thiem told the media in Paris. “And, yeah, if I do that, I mean, I’m practicing and working hard to give myself a chance to play well at least. I hope I can do that in the match, as well. That’s also what’s necessary.
“It’s definitely a little advantage for me as I’m sometimes a little slow starter that I have at least three sets instead of two.”
Another advantage for Thiem is the draw.
The fourth-seeded Austrian resides in the bottom half of the draw away from Big 3 champions Novak Djokovic, 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal and 2009 champion Roger Federer.
If the seeds hold true to form, Thiem would play sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals. Zverev defeated Thiem in the Mutua Madrid Open semifinals en route to his second Madrid title earlier this month.
Thiem says given his recent form, his sole focus is his French Open first-round match vs. 35-year-old Spaniard Pablo Andujar, who knocked Roger Federer out of the Geneva Open last week.
“Maybe two, three years ago I would have been happy if would be that case, but I think the way I’m coming into that tournament, the way I also played the last weeks, the only thing I can focus on is the first rounds,” Thiem said of his preferred position away from the Big 3. “I shouldn’t focus at all on who is in my quarter or even who is in my half.
“I mean, of course I know that big three are all in the half and I think Roger and Novak are even in one quarter. But for myself, it doesn’t matter so much. I just basically focus now on the first round.”
Photo credit: Roland Garros Facebook