After 419 days without a win, Dominic Thiem will find his way back to success on Tuesday at the ATP Challenger in the city of Salzburg (around 6 p.m. / live ORF Sport+). After seven first-round defeats, the tennis pro wins on the first win. At a press conference in Salzburg on Monday, he admitted that he had returned to the tournament too soon after suffering a tough wrist injury. “The clear goal now is to win – no matter against whom.”
For the 28-year-old from Lower Austria, it’s all about points and self-confidence. The former US Open winner recently slipped to 346th in the world rankings. Thiem does not yet know his opponent for tomorrow. It will be a qualifier that won’t be known until after Monday afternoon’s elimination. “With the many great defeats, there was not a single match where I had the feeling that I played properly,” he said. At the first comeback there was still a training time missing, now he is fit again.
Thiem recently worked on his form in Barcelona – and recaptured a lot of his old tennis there, as he said today. “My wrist has been good for a long time, and I’ve been fit again physically for a long time. The problem was how I used my forehand.” After almost a year out of action, all the automated movements were no longer there. “The goal is that I can do damage again with my shots. That’s the only way I can win a match. Now my forehand is back to what it was before the injury – but maybe not as consistent.” That’s why he doesn’t want to be pinned down to a win at the start in Salzburg.
After his decision not to play in Wimbledon, Salzburg was exactly the right place for a new start – not only because the Lichtenwörther spent a lot of time here during rehabilitation. “The tournament is top-class – with some really big names. The entire Austrian elite is at the start. It doesn’t get any better.” In addition to Thiem, the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco and the French Gilles Simon are three former top 10 players, and six other players come from the top 100.
After training sessions yesterday and today, Thiem will then focus his full attention on the match on Tuesday. After Salzburg, tournaments in Båstad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel are on his agenda. “Depending on how things go there will decide how soon I go to America. But I’m hoping to gradually play my way back to the big tour.”
Not only Thiem was on the podium at the press conference, but also state champion Lukas Neumayer. “I feel in top form – and I have nothing to lose. I’m happy about the opportunity to play in such a big tournament,” said the 19-year-old from Salzburg. His opponent Simon is almost twice his age. “I only know him from TV. But I will have my chances if I play my best tennis.”