(Reuters) - Next week’s French Open will be like no other due to the COVID-19 pandemic but that could work in Dominic Thiem’s favour, with the newly-crowned U.S. Open champion hoping it will be third time lucky for him in Paris.
After being beaten by Rafa Nadal in the Roland Garros final in 2018 and 2019, and losing a thriller to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open earlier this year, the Austrian finally got his hands on a Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows last month.
While Thiem did not have to face Nadal, Djokovic or Federer in New York he proved well worthy of becoming the first new name on a men’s Grand Slam trophy in six years, clawing his way back from two sets down to beat big-serving German Alexander Zverev.
Now back on the French clay, his favourite surface, the 27-year-old says the U.S. Open win will only be good for his game.
“I hope to carry this momentum that I got with my win there and use it in Paris,” Thiem said upon his return to Austria.
“I hope and expect from me to be better and more relaxed now. Even if I did not want to say it to myself I had been playing the last few Grand Slams under a lot of pressure. But now this is gone.”
If he is to win a second consecutive Slam he will have to adapt quickly to a very different French Open, one which has been moved from its traditional spring dates, will have limited numbers of fans and where players will again be in a ‘bubble’ to minimise the risk of infection.
Most players have had limited match practice on clay in a fragmented season.
Thiem has had none having skipped last week’s Italian Open, giving his biggest rivals a slight advantage.
Spaniard Nadal won two matches before losing in the quarter-finals in Rome while Djokovic claimed the fifth Italian Open title on Monday, for a record 36th ATP Masters crown.
Thiem’s coach Nicolas Massu, however, says his charge will not be stressing out about his lack of preparation on clay. Or anything else for that matter.
The U.S. Open win has made sure of that.
“I think this will help Dominic to be more calm because everyone talks a lot about the new generation,” he added.
“Now he is going to be more calm playing in the next Grand Slam.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford
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