After having a jam-packed 2016, Dominic Thiem has decided to play an even busier 2017. He is playing 2 more tournaments than he did, last year. For the first six months of 2016, he played fantastic and won 4 tournaments on 3 surfaces, also making it to the semi-finals of Roland Garros. But thereon, a decline in his game was evident owing to several injuries. In the latter half of the season, his record was a mere 11-11. A few of the injuries were due to over-stressing his body. He played a total of 27 tournaments in the last season. Due to this scheduling, he has been exhausted way more than other players. He doesn’t get enough rest for his body to cope with the stress.
He stated some time ago that he plays many tournaments so that he can gain more confidence. But if he tires his body this way, he wouldn’t be able to display his A game all the time, and it has been proved to us from the way he has been playing in the last 6 months. Adding to this heavy scheduling is his grinding play-style and the way he pounces on every shot. His game-play stresses his body enough already. He needs time off tour to repair and be back on the tour with equal force each time. But due to his grueling schedule, he doesn’t get much time to heal.
He plays more tournaments as he wishes to strengthen himself, both mentally and physically. But this can be useful up to a certain extent only, as his game is quite physical which wears down his body. Even if a player with a less physically-demanding game than him played nearly as many tournaments as Thiem did, the consequences would be visible to many, if not all. He is a baseline grinder and often plays aggressively. He launches himself at every ball, trying to make the best of it. This, further damages his body.
In 2016, he nearly failed to qualify for the World Tour Finals. One of the many reasons to this was the extreme limit to which he pushed his body. As 2016 proceeded, his body could not produce enough energy for him to play long and demanding matches. He could not challenge his opponents as much as he would have, had he been fit.
In an interview last year, after retiring from Toronto due to a hip injury, Thiem said, “I think a little bit difference is, for sure, I didn’t expect to play that many matches and that many tournaments, and go that deep in almost every tournament.”
The lack of self-belief
The above statement clearly suggests a lack of confidence in the 23 year old. Accompanying this lack is the low mental strength. He says that he plays each tournament with the aim to perform his best so that he can enter the next tournament with increased confidence. The lack of confidence, in a way, compels him to play more, leading to physical exhaustion. This exertion leads to low performance in the following matches, resulting in more defeats. The defeats lower his self confidence. It is a never-ending cycle unless he finds a way to balance it all.
Even in 2017, he is playing 16 of the first 18 weeks on tour, including a major and 2 Masters 1000 tournaments. This schedule is sure to take a toll on his body. He will have to work really hard on himself to get through. He took a week off before entering Sofia. The next week off that he has taken is before Monte Carlo Masters. Just before that he would have played Indian Wells (a Masters 1000 tournament) and the Davis Cup.
Considering his planning, even Roger Federer tried to advise him on how to manage it. Later, Federer said, “I spoke to him about his schedule coming up; he knows what he’s doing. I think it’s unbelievable to see how he’s backing it up”
Thiem is quite young and hence, his body can still endure the excruciating schedule, the baseline grinding game-play and the fighting hard spirit. But as he ages, it will be tough for him to keep up with this busy calendar. The older he gets, the more time it will take for him to repair the wear and tear caused due to physical exertion. With proper scheduling, he can give enough time to keep him going and also, to concentrate on improving his mental strength and gain self confidence
He could take top players like Djokovic, Nadal or Federer as examples and plan his year accordingly. These players participate barely in 18-20 tournaments in a year. They participate in only the necessary tournaments at the 250 and 500 levels, and concentrate more on the big tournaments — the Masters 1000 and the Grand Slams. This planning allows them to stay confident and strong. It also helps them to gain maximum points in minimum time.
It’s about time that Thiem understands the importance of a correct schedule and works accordingly, because, no matter how natural one is at the game, hard work is necessary to be at the top. Even the most natural and elegant tennis player, Federer once said, “There is no way around hard work. Embrace it.”
If Thiem wishes to continue being competitive as he is now, he has to alter his planning and cut down a few unnecessary tournaments. By doing so, he’s sure to show a little improved physical health as the scheduling of his, exerts his body way too much.
He has performed moderately this year so far. And unless he lessens the workload significantly, his performance is unlikely to have a drastic improvement.
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