Federer and Thiem



A quick note on the Federer loss though a little after the fact; despite the disappointment of not getting to see an even sorta-in-form Federer play Djokovic in the QF, Federer has clearly been treading in these kinds of water lately.

To truncate this potentially long-winded discussion/post, the loss is totally in-line with what I’ve been writing about with regards to the former Swiss #1. He’s old and these kinds of matches will more and more be the case, if they haven’t already been the case. Players not in top form (even the Big 3) suffer “shock” losses. But this was not as shocking as it apparently was for a lot of people. How can I be shocked if my reading and writing has reflected this kind of ping pong skepticism of mine over the past few months.

I have already charted this in other 2018 posts: IW final, the entire grass season, Cincy, his 37th birthday in August, the return of the Djoker.

He’s not injured. The conditions were brutal (this from a lot of spectator testimony, people not playing tennis: apparently, word around there is the tournament last night kept some doors, openings to the outside, open to allow more circulation. The night of Federer v Millman, the place was a breathless hell hole. This was definitely not Melbourne where the A/C provided more comfort for the players and fans; Arthur Ashe with the roof closed creates a more hostile environment, apparently.

So, sure that contributed, but Federer just doesn’t have the same impenetrable game (his game is infamously penetrable, actually, but you get my point); he’s a step slower, has slower recovery, opponents are “younger” and hungrier: this isn’t rocket science.

And if this doesn’t really silence the Federer has been peaking 2015 thru 2018 crowd, I’m not sure what will. His retirement in two years, for these fanboys and fangirls, will probably be described as Federer going-out on top. 😀

This later Federer has had to use a lot more guile, which does certainly stretch his form and possibly make it look like he’s more efficient, etc. But the physicality of the game reigns supreme, especially in these kinds of conditions: Bo5, hot, U.S. Open.

To be fair, Millman had that Aussie fight of some of his more recent forefathers to help him overcome Federer. But the Swiss’ serve (critical to his success) disappeared and that MP/SP on racket collapse, characteristic of Fed, reared its head once again.

Djokovic, as we have been saying all along, is the the prohibitive favorite in that bottom-half anyways. In other words, how consequential was this Federer loss? Only for the certain tennis fans that either worship Federer (this is tragic for them, of course) or those who really wanted Federer v Djokovic is this very surprising or unbelievable.

This Federer loss just falls right into our recent discussions. Hence the lack of a quick-response-post from me.


Thiem, on the other hand, was that close to changing some of the tennis narrative. We need a change in the narrative (No: Federer’s loss is not a change in the narrative. . . HE’S A YEAR OLDER THAN ANDY RODDICK for christ’s sake).

Because of the consequences of this match and the insanely high level of tennis, I posted a response last night, after midnight PST. This was a great match, full of incredible shot-making (passing, defending, holding/saving and breaking), all kinds of drama, all kinds of great major championship five-set battle.

The sport needs new blood. You know the general lost boys/generation discourse and you certainly (better) know my particular contribution to that larger conversation. There is excitement surrounding the likes of Thiem and even his younger NextGen brethren, but we’re getting a little nervous to be honest.

And let’s get one thing straight: those of us who have watched with intensity the sport (many sports), and know the nuances of championship mettle, majesty, failure and dynasty, understand that a “new” champ provides much more to the sport and even the broader culture when his/her breakthrough happens by defeating a current champ, star, or legend near his/her prime. Period.

Sure, if three years go by and Novak and Rafa are still slapping these youngsters around, and a Zverev or Thiem finally beats a graying Big 2, we’re excited, sorta.

Inevitability is more interesting when it descends from the clouds, rather than rises from the grave.

Rafa stormed the 2005 French Open when he was 18, beating Federer in the SF, among others (of course his win over Roger in Miami 2004 marks the beginning of his tennis destruction). Rafa is a great example of a younger “outsider” disrupting the power structure.

Novak in 2008 was 20, I believe, and he beat Federer in the Aussie SF on his way to a first major.

One can see that the two monsters that Federer created were precocious in their desires to overcome their dominant ancestor.

Pete Sampras of 1990 is another great example and one I might suggest informs my read on the Thiem v Nadal QF at 2018 U.S. Open. Pete’s U.S. Open run that year was perhaps a little like what Thiem’s could have been (sure this sort of comparison is flawed and unfair — but when you’re playing at this level, in this company, you better be ready for such lofty comparisons).

Pete was 19 years old, 12th seed, and he beat a 30 year-old 3-seed Lendl in the QF, Johnny Mac in the SF and Andre in the final. That Lendl QF almost looks like a perfect parallel for the Thiem v Nadal match last night.

The easiest approach to this, for Dominic’s cause, is to applaud and say he’ll get there soon, some day: bravo, allez!, well done — good progress.

But we don’t necessarily roll like that; it’s not in our analytical blood. From our perspective, he needed to overcome his elder there (the great Rafael Nadal), to roll into the Friday SF with all kinds of class and confidence (btw, he needed to serve-out the third set last night — not the second, as I think I reported in my commiseration).

This should have been Thiem’s time. This would have echoed some of his forefathers’ advanced, ahead-of-their-time conquests of leaders of those earlier orders.

But as you can suspect, we will continue to Beliem in Thiem. From that first title (three in all that year) in 2015, he’s been coming. The developments in his game and confidence here in summer/fall 2018 should propel the recently turned 25 year-old.

Quite frankly, his power tennis, equipped with an incredible one-hander, a tremendous serve, and a developing all-court assault is the best “look” on tour in terms of style and persona. Along with his humility and grace on and off the court, this young Austrian is brimming with class.

We look to guys like Domi Thiem to (save) develop this glorious sport. Sorry if that sounds unfair or laden with too much expectation and responsibility. Actually, it’s the highest compliment I can pay.

24 thoughts on “Federer and Thiem

  1. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    I would only add one thing. John McE, in who’s academy Dominic was preparing this year before USO, and who seems to like Thiem for many reasons, was hitting more than an hour with him (he told an the beginning, he could hit only half an hour) and when finished, he told Thiem, he didn’t like his game in Paris final, because he didn’t challenge Nadal enough and he could. I think, these words from JME had an emotional impact on Thiem and maybe contributed to his courage and confidence in the Nadal match. If I’m right, this would undermine my thinking about “supercoaches”.At last in Thiem’s case. Because he takes such things seriously, while others (case Zverev) expect, the supercoach will make wonder and the player must not do anything himself. Similar impact could have Nadal’s words, who is just honest and humble as Thiem and his “apologies” were honest and genuine, not having anything else in mind (like consolation or something).
    It’s a special thing with Thiem (well known from Bresnik story) – if someone, he respects as a great player or great coach, tells him something, he will simply try it out instead of thinking first, if it has sense. Lendl or JME as “supercoach” would make a lot more for Thiem than all supercoaches of the world for Zverev.


    1. Good stuff, WJ.

      As days go by I’m more and more impressed by Thiem. I have been certainly excited about his tennis for awhile, evidenced in my writing over the last few years, but getting to exchange ideas with you and then this QF at the Open has been, despite my calls of TRAGEDY, quite good fun. I might even say inspirational. Thiem’s game, like Novak’s in a way (you might have said this), has a very natural balance — he was born a tennis player.

      I think he will be inspired by the Nadal match (cool Jonny Mac anecdote). Watching Bresnik stand and yell at those moments in the match may back your point that he wants Domi to be develop a killer instinct. Thiem has the killer instinct.

      Like you say, he just needs to develop that finish at the net and some other aspects sure, but he’s so close. A Thiem Open win would have been early Christmas for the sport. This sport DESPERATELY needs new blood. Talk about tragic.

      This will probably be a Nadal v Djokovic final. It’s 2018. 37 year old Federer was hanging around too.

      We Nied Thiem.



  2. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    But there is still something, I cannot easily explain. Wimbledon 2017. Round of 16. Thiem is up a break in the 5th set vs. Berdych and loses 3:6. USO 2017 Round of 16 – he leeds by 60 and dominates, (well this was the unfair story about Delpo playing dead, taking two little white pills and totally unfair behavior of his latino fans), has 2 MP in 4 and loses 4:6 in the 5. set. Australian Open 2018, he is first to sets down to Kudla but wins the 5-setter, then in Round of 16 – he loses every second set, unfortunately these are sets 1., 3. and 5. Now quite the same in NYC – the only (maybe important) difference – this is QF for the first time, but he is up a break or a min i-break in TB in every set and loses.
    Maybe visualization of every opponent to be his worst enemy could help – but has hi any enemy in his life? He’s too kind – this is what Bresnik misses in him since he was 10 or 12 and was winning everything in his age category – still playing double-handed backhand and managing to bring the ball back to the opponent always one more time 😉 Bresnik tries badly to make him a bit of “bad boy” – no success. Must we love his tennis but not expect big titles? Or maybe Kiki tells him one day – darling, we want to have children, didn’t we? It’s OK, but first after your 5th GS crown, ha, ha, ha … I hope bpth don’t follow your blog …


    1. If he doesn’t have a little bad boy, then he better have the skill, weaponry and “genius” of Federer (who was actually a brat back in the day). If Thiem doesn’t get some of that darkness, we won’t appreciate him as much globally. He needs to transcend.


  3. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    That’s the only thing, were Bresnik had zero success. What he has in abuse is passion for tennis. Don’t know, if he has Fed-like genius. This genius belongs to the “bad boy”-part, which he misses and will not consciously develop. Everyone needs some appreciation, but this is not something with big value for Thiem. He doe not care much about global appreciation. Look his schedule. He trains and plays so much because of passion, not to have optimal preparation for winning. He is going to develop skills and weaponry all the time. That’s his way. If you ask him, what are his long-term goals in tennis, he tells you, he wants to win one big title, slam or masters some time. And it’s genuine. He is happy with playing tennis so good he can. He is happy, when he can deliver outstanding performance. Only a bit disappointed when losing just like in NYC, only because he believes to have played well, to to have chances from nowhere. He will not transcend for you to appreciate him more globally. He will play so long it makes him happy., no matter his ranking, titles a.s.o. Performance is his god, not winning. Read the book after it is published in English. Or at least parts I translated on my blog and you will understand him better. He will now play DC in Austria, on clay (host’s poivilage to choose the surface, where the opponent is not comfortable=. But it is nonsense for Thiem’s last part of the season, where he will have both Top10 and London at stake. Bresnik would forbid him, but he cannot. And of course all Austrian “sunday fans” want to have him bring Austria to the world group. It’s small country and small countries evelop more nationalism (or “patriotism” then big ones.


  4. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Most of European pros leave or at least have residence in Monte Carlo, some reside in Dubai, others in California. Thiem will never leave Austria. And he makes season’s preparation on Tenerife, maybe all over the career. Thiem is local, not global. He has more problems with jetlag than most from the circus. He gets ill, catches viruses, which destroys his preparation. his was the story this year before USO. It was not even sure, if he will play it at all.He managed it last minute.


    1. I hear you — Thiem is not part of the circus, more of a humble, old soul.

      Fine. Let’s get that HC game dialed with some strong play down-the-stretch here in 2018.
      He should make London and can have a nice little showing there. That, like most HC now, are Novak’s to lose. Thiem will compete.

      Then it’s on to 2019 where we nied Thiem to beliem in his grand slam destiny.


  5. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    BTW – what’s really Federer “genius”? Nothing mysterious I think. It’s a perfect and full mix of skills allowing him to be creative in the meaning of instant creativity. He can “invent” shots specific to an individual ball/court situation. That’s the difference between him and perfect grinders. That’s what makes his game to be that graceful, some call it “artistic”.
    Thiem seems to go this way. The more tools you have, the bigger your freedom on court. You can aim at any place on court and find instantly the right mix of length, height, spin, speed, acceleration, whatever. Many can “invent” the same, but cannot implement. I think, Thiem is close to this point. When he reaches it, he does not need “killer”instinct (bad boy), like many think, Federer never had. His game was a kind of aggressive, not himself. Maybe the same story with Thiem. Well, he’s late maturer, so maybe he reaches the perfect mix a bit later than Fed.


    1. I agree. The one-hander alone tends to be more aggressive and it’s safe to say that Thiem has quite the aggressive approach to ground strokes in general. That was actually the problem, the predictability.

      Coming to the net will add “aggression” while giving his game more variety — minimizing the BL aggression.

      Great run in NYC and great developments in his game. MORE!


  6. Pingback: WHAT’S NEW IN THIEM’S GAME? – PRF – My Passions – Tennis, Nature, Vegan Life and More

  7. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    That’s my article from January http://prf-mypassions-tennisandmore.com/thiem-must-leave-the-baseline/. Seems it finally starts to work. No incidents in case of Thiem. If he uses new elements in matches, it’s for sure thoroughly ground in training drills. If if works then in one match, it’s almost sure, it will work in every next match.
    BTW – it was hardly possible this year, but Thiem must work to improve his ranking. One place higher before USO and eventual Nadal match would be SF, not QF. Both him and Bresnik say all the time, they don’t care much about the ranking. Good. It’s not important, so long you win slams or reach finals. If you do, your ranking is automatically high 😉


    1. I totally agree. I will read the article later. We’ve been on the same point of concern.

      Funny I titled that post “Federer and Thiem” but didn’t really discuss them together, perhaps in comparison. I am going to write that tonight if I can stay awake . . . 😉

      That comparison might be critical.

      Yeah, this nonchalance about ranking is counter-productive. Too much Mr. Nice/Passive guy. Must destroy opponent and rule the world (haha, although that’s Novak’s and Rafa’s M.O.).

      I beliem in Thiem.


  8. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Maybe some little correction. It’s nonchalance about numbers lower than 5. Then it starts to be interesting 🙂 Of course it’s a bit of Bresnik-specific extravagance. Thiem cares mnore about ranking. It’s obvious as it decides about draws, London and some other important things.
    Yes, I was wondering about the title and I thought, you had some idea but maybe then forgot it, when writing the article 😉 Your new should be interesting 🙂 It’s my obsession, that even if every healthy FedFan will tell you, Thiem is rather a copy of Nadal (raw power, grunting a.s.o.), Thiem is just going into steps of Federer. My older article from October 2017 http://prf-mypassions-tennisandmore.com/going-into-steps-of-federer/.


    1. He is like Nadal — I made that comparison in a recent post, and even more so as he drifted Nadal-deep on ROS.

      But we need to start seeing Thiem in light of Federer too, especially as he begins to attack.


  9. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    Maybe he can somehow turn Fedal in one person – a real one, not virtual?
    He has maybe more from Nadal at this time. But he does not seem to follow any of them. Developing own personality in terms of sport and beyond. Or maybe at the end (or earlier) someone able to follow his own way and at start (his prime time comes IMO in next 2 years) to collect big wins on his own terms?


    1. Good stuff, WJ. He is a bit of both perhaps yet creating his own (of course). I hope 2019 he gets his maiden Masters or Major (prefer the major. If I was coaching him, I’d be focusing-on how to destroy Zverev. Coric is one to watch as well.


      1. PRF - Władysław Janowski

        Right. I would add another task – how to destroy Thiem’s well-known slow
        -starts and let him play every first set (crucial for 3-setters) like he did against Rafa 🙂


      2. I am going to post the little highlights of his 2018 Zverev Roland Garros QF. That is a tennis lesson there.

        Much to explore on planet Thiem.


  10. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    I have made a short slow-motion video of what I called SHORT SWING FOREHAND. you can find it on the bottom of this post http://prf-mypassions-tennisandmore.com/whats-new-in-thiems-game/.
    The preparation sequence is quite the same as in his aggressive return, similar to Fed’s SABR, but better. On the video (and he did play this all over the match) he stays very close to BL, when the coming ball is very close, makes a step back, his trade-mark loop but very short and can still step into the ball, jump high and involve whole body, so it’s just like his classic BL forehand, but the ball is hit very close to BL. The same quite often with the BH, CC or DTL. Taking the opponent another milliseconds. This was what Nadal did not expect and could not find the way to control over the whole first set. Since set 2 Nadal decided to come closer to the BL and try the same. This worked for him and made Thiem to struggle over 2 sets. Last 2 sets it was only about who makes the last mistake. Unfortunately this was Thiem. They could have played the last TB only 😉


    1. I like the video. I’m going to look for some zoomed video. But this is the strategy that got to Nadal. I heard some people saying they hadn’t seen balls hit so hard in rallies before, old school tennis fans. Part of that is the equipment — players are hitting harder today then ever. But the Thiem/Nadal match might be seen as a bit of a milestone, at least in terms of Thiem’s game — but maybe more. It was spectacular tennis and the one-hander made it so much more historical.

      I have said this a million times — why you will never hear me get very excited about Zverev’s game or even Coric or Chung or Tiafoe — the one-hander is the greatest shot in tennis. Period.

      We do like Shapo but he needs to “tighten” his form a bit. He has a few years however.

      2018 USO SF will become a milestone and a benchmark moving forward.


  11. PRF - Władysław Janowski

    I will look for a zoomed one too. I have the whole recording on Dropbox. I’m always sharing the link in the respective post, so you can watch or download it too. The only problem, you must maybe watch again almost 5 hours in slow-motion to find the best and then prepare it. No search engine there 😦
    Yeah – one-hander is part of mystery in tennis. Even Nadal or Djoker can not produce such excitement. Maybe we should ask ATP not never let two-handers play beyond round 2 in slams and round 1 in Masters? Ha, ha, ha …
    We are still lucky to have some youngsters going for one-hander, even it is lot more dificult to learn. With one-hander even guys like Copi or Yaziri or Youzhny are still worth watching.


  12. Pingback: Thoughts Post USO 2019 Part II – Mcshow Blog

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