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Dominic Thiem set to dominate on clay following Barcelona Open triumph
Thiem has won titles in Indian Wells and Barcelona. Will he land his first Grand Slam at Roland Garros?
Last Updated: 30/04/19 2:52pm
Is Dominic Thiem ready take over the mantle as the 'King of Clay' from Rafael Nadal following his success on the red stuff?
The 6ft 1in right-handed Austrian has always had the game to do well on the surface with a booming backhand, stamina, graceful movement and aggressive from the baseline.
But he has now added variety in his game which has enabled him to join the elite in the men's game.
To prove a point, he conquered Rafael Nadal in the Barcelona Open semi-finals to become the first player other than Novak Djokovic to defeat the Spaniard on clay four times before capping an impressive week by crushing Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-0 on Sunday.
Thiem had already won the biggest title of his career when he beat Roger Federer to walk away with the Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells earlier this year, and after landing his ninth clay-court title of his career, his 13th overall, the stars appear to be aligning for the world No 5 ahead of the French Open.
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He next plays in Madrid, where he has been runner-up the last two seasons, and with questions surrounding the indifferent form of world No 1 Novak Djokovic and 32-year-old Nadal, last year's Roland Garros finalist will be feeling confident of cleaning up before players gather in Paris.
"A title like this always gives you a lot of confidence, so I'll be in a good mood going into Madrid," Thiem said. "But the special thing about tennis is that I'll start from zero in Madrid. All the guys there are really strong, so I'll need to be ready from the first point."
Tennis is very much in Thiem's family with his father Wolfgang, and mother, Karin, both tennis coaches, while his brother, Moritz, also plays the game.
He is Austria's biggest tennis star since Thomas Muster, and now the 25-year-old is playing a free-flowing game under the tutelage of Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu.
"There are many things he can bring to my game," Thiem told the official ATP Tour website. "He preferred playing on clay, but his biggest success came on a fast hard court at the (2004 Athens) Olympics. He knows what it means to feel at home on clay, but transfer good results to a hard court. That's one of the things we expect from the relationship."
Thiem had previously worked with Gunter Bresnik since a young age, so Bresnik's decision to step back has been key in allowing him to make the step up, with a fresh outlook under Massu.
Did you know...
Thiem has been ranked in Top 10 each week since 6 June, 2016 which is the second-longest active streak (Nadal since 25 April, 2005).
This was showcased when he produced a stunning performance to defeat Federer at Indian Wells and then describing his recent victory over tournament favourite and 11-time champion Nadal at The Real Club de Tenis as "special".
"I'm always super proud if I beat him because he's the best player ever on this surface, and it's always very special to beat him here on clay," Thiem said.
Nadal may have struggled for form on the surface of late, conceding he has been far from his best, but his loss to Thiem was one he is prepared to learn from heading towards the French Open next month. That's a warning Thiem will have to take heed from.
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