Dominic Thiem 'positive' his comeback on right track after injury layoff

Former world No 3 is competing at World Tennis League in Dubai as he prepares for new season

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Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem believes he is heading in the right direction as he continues his search for his best form after a lengthy injury layoff.

The 29-year-old Austrian was out for nine months with a wrist problem before returning to action last spring.

Previously ranked a career-high No 3 in the world, Thiem lost the first seven matches of his comeback and dropped to as low as 346 in the rankings by July.

After a five-week training block in early summer, Thiem began to find his game and amassed a 23-12 win-loss record across both the Challenger and ATP tours, rising to 102 in the rankings, thanks to semi-final appearances in Gstaad, Gijon and Antwerp.

Currently in Dubai competing in the World Tennis League exhibition event, Thiem believes he’s on the right track.

Despite a narrow defeat to Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime at the WTL on Thursday, he feels he is in a good place as he puts the finishing touches to his game ahead of the start of a new season.

“I have the feeling that I’m going in a good direction. The way is positive for me, the way I’m practising, I’m very happy about it,” Thiem told The National at Dubai’s Coca Cola Arena.

“I think I’m on my way to reach the goals for the off-season, which was to get those last missing percentages. And I feel that I’m playing better, like at the end of the 2022 season, which is a good sign. Coming towards the end of the season, coming closer and closer to the first real matches again and I’m happy about it.”

Thiem admits he started playing tennis again with no expectations last March and that the training block he had after the French Open helped to raise his level and confidence.

“I told myself I have to put a little bit of pressure on myself again, to start winning matches again, and it worked out well. From 300 in the rankings to 100 in just three or four months, which was very good,” he explained.

“The direction was definitely right. Still, I was not playing at my top level again and this I wanted to switch around in the off-season. I really have the feeling I’m on a good way and at the same time the expectations are rising for the New Year.

“Still it’s going to be really difficult since I’m not seeded and I can face anybody at the beginning of any tournament. But I’m fit, I’m happy to compete and I’m looking forward to starting.

“My goal is to be on the way again, to achieve this, to be able to beat anybody, to go far in every tournament and I hope during 2023 this will happen again.”

Auger-Aliassime sealed the deal for the Kites on Thursday as he edged Thiem 7-6, 7-6 to give his side a 42-31 victory over the Hawks.

“Again Iga, the rock of our team kept us alive. Got a lot of points on the board,” said Auger-Aliassime on court.

“It was a great match, I hope the crowd enjoyed it. It was high level. Congrats to Dominic also for raising the bar and playing well.”

Earlier, in the opening mixed doubles, a three-set victory for Alexander Zverev and Elena Rybakina gave the Hawks an early 12-11 lead against Kites duo Auger-Aliassime and Sania Mirza.

In women’s singles, world No 1 Iga Swiatek claimed a hard-fought 6-4, 6-3 win over former Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to pull the Kites in front 23-19 entering the final clash of the day.

Updated: December 23, 2022, 10:03 AM