Federer: Thiem has the 'secret' to achieve greatness on clay

Roger Federer believes Indian Wells Masters champion Dominic Thiem is starting to realise his obvious potential.

Roger Federer claimed his 100th ATP Tour title in Dubai earlier this year.   -  Getty Images

Roger Federer admitted Dominic Thiem deserved his first ATP Masters 1000 title on the hard courts of Indian Wells, but explained how clay is where the Austrian may have the 'secret' to achieve greatness.

The Swiss fourth seed surged to a 6-3 first set lead in 37 minutes but Thiem fought back as Federer dropped his first set of this year's tournament, forcing a decider.

It took until the seventh game for Federer to earn the first break point of the third set, but the seventh seed dug deep to edge the 20-time grand slam winner 7-5 after just over two hours on court.

The 37-year-old admitted his surprise that Thiem had not done better in previous years, while also explaining that the power in his serve and groundstrokes could lead to success on clay in the future.

"You feel like every shot in Dominic's game has got some punch behind it,” Federer said during his post-match press conference.

"I think that’s why he did well this week. I’m surprised he didn’t do better in previous years because I think it [Indian Wells] really lends itself to players who can put the pressure on time and time again.

"And to players who have a good kick serve because it does go up, and it does fly, and it’s hard to control sometimes when it does get up there.

"That's where his secret lies in playing well on the clay. He can hit through heavy conditions, forehand and backhand, and I think, time and time again, for most players, that is a secret how to achieve greatness on clay.

"And the best at that is Rafa [Nadal], obviously.”

Federer explained the nature of his performance and how the milestone of winning his 100th ATP tour title in Dubai a few weeks ago took the sting out of this defeat.

"It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. I'm not too disappointed because I feel like he had to come up with the goods," the Swiss said.

"It did feel to some extent like it was in my racket. I just came up against somebody on the day who was a bit better when it really mattered. That's how it goes.

"It sure is frustrating and disappointing and sad, to some extent, but I’ve been in these positions so many times that I get over it very quickly.

"I felt like I’m playing good tennis. In Australia I wasn't too down on myself because I feel like my game is there and my body is there.

"When you feel that way, you take it more positively. It's not as dramatic. I'm happy for Dominic winning his first Masters 1000. It's a massive event to win.

"I just got my 100 in Dubai, had a good week here and there's more to look forward to in Miami.”