by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Success hasn’t changed Dominic Thiem.
The 22-year-old Austrian has been a rising star among ATP World Tour tennis players.
He finished 2014 ranked 39th in the world. Last year, he was 20th.
After claiming four titles so far this season, his ranking hit a career high, earning him a place among the coveted top 10.
Along the way defeating Rafael Nadal on clay and Roger Federer on grass, he won the tournaments in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Acapulco, Mexico; Nice, France; and Stuttgart, Germany.
“It’s not different at all. I’m the same person, and I will always be the same person. I won’t change only because I’m top 10,” Thiem said.
“It’s nice. It was a big goal. But still I’m the same person like a couple years ago.”
While more people now may be interested in his personal life, “for myself, nothing changed,” he said.
Now that Thiem has claimed his place at the top, he is working to secure it.
“I want to keep my spot in the top 10,” he said, noting it is “very tough to get there and very, very tough to stay there.”
Last month, Thiem retired during the first set of his opening match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto with hip inflammation. He then withdrew from the Abierto Mexicano Mifel in Los Cabos, Mexico, for the same injury.
But, he said, his body now is recovering.
“It’s better, for sure. It’s not like it was before Wimbledon, but still it’s getting better,” he said. “I think I’m on the way up again.”
Thiem blames fatigue and poor scheduling for his ailment.
He now is set to compete at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, already his 20th tournament this year.
And success at those events has meant even more matches.
In hindsight, Thiem said he probably should have played one less grass court competition after the French Open.
In Paris, he reached the semifinals, before falling to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
“To compete against these top guys, you have to be really on 100 percent every day and every match,” he said.
Thiem credits his long-term coach, Günter Bresnik, for his success on – and also off – the tennis court.
“Everything I achieve in my tennis career, it’s also his. I’m with him now 12 years, 13 years, which is a very long time,” he said. “He educated me basically from a very young age, educated my tennis, also a little bit my private life, my character.
“So most of the things I am now I have to say thank you to him.”
Thiem is aware many other young players are vying for his spot. He said he watches a lot of tennis, so he knows them – and their ability.
In particular, he has an eye on 18-year-old American Reilly Opelka, who earned his first ATP World Tour singles win at the recent BB&T Atlanta Open and stands a whopping 6 feet and 11 inches tall.
“I think he’s going to be really dangerous,” Thiem said, comparing the teen phenomenon to the current top-ranked American. “He’s gonna be the new John Isner.”