Thiem feeling optimistic again after Madrid boost

Dominic Thiem returned to action at the Madrid Open after taking a break to recharge ahead of the French Open later this month.

Dominic Thiem

Austrian tennis star Dominic Thiem poses for a photo outside the Scuderia AlphaTauri garage before the Spanish GP at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Dominic Thiem is leaving Madrid with his confidence boosted despite falling short of the final.

Thiem returned to action at the Madrid Open after taking a break to recharge ahead of the French Open later this month.

He couldn’t get past the semifinals in the Spanish capital, losing to Alexander Zverev in two sets. But it was further than Thiem had imagined reaching after a difficult start to his year.

“In general, I’m super happy with the week,” Thiem said. “I would have never expected to be in the semifinals, to play against a player like him. I cannot complain about anything.”

The fourth-ranked Austrian hasn’t won a tournament since breaking through with his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in September. He then lost in the early rounds in Doha and Dubai and decided it was time to take a break.

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Thiem said the coronavirus pandemic also played a part in his decision to take time off — because it was "mentally a little bit more demanding to be in a bubble, to play in front of empty seats” — but his lack of motivation played a greater role.

“The main reason was that I won the first major, that I reached basically my lifetime goal,” Thiem said. “So, of course, it’s tough to just continue like before. That was the main reason, that I just had to regroup myself. That took a little bit of time.”

He said he wasn't really sure how he would perform on his return but was pleasantly surprised with his game. He started in Madrid with a couple of straight-set wins over Marcos Giron and Alex de Minaur, then rallied to defeat John Isner in three sets to reach the semifinals.

“It was a way better result than I expected,” the 27-year-old Thiem said. “Playing-wise and physically, I expected to be in a decent shape. But, of course, there are still many things to improve just to keep all intensity for all week, day in, day out ... But I’m very optimistic that every week I’m playing, now it’s going to improve. Especially for the confidence it was important to get a great result here.”

Thiem will next play in Rome before returning to the French Open, where he was a finalist in 2018 and 2019.

“Of course, there are many things to improve for next week and then for the weeks after as well,” he said. “Just try to get to Rome, get some good practices in there, then hopefully play even better than here in Madrid.”

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