First-Time Winner Spotlight: Dominic Thiem

Thiem opens up after capturing his first career title in Nice. 

Dominic Thiem made himself more of a player to watch after winning his first ATP World Tour title at the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur on Saturday.

The 21-year-old Austrian beat fourth seed Leonardo Mayer 6-7(8), 7-5, 7-6(2) in two hours and 28 minutes in the Nice final.

The World No. 42 opened his tournament in the south of France with a first-round victory over Victor Estrella Burgos in straight sets, advanced to the quarter-final after Nick Kyrgios retired due to injury, beat friend and defending champion Ernests Gulbis to reach the semi-finals, and knocked out second seed John Isner to advance to the final.

Thiem spoke with after the victory.

How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title at age 21?

It’s something really, really special. I think it doesn’t matter which age, but I’m happy that I made it at a quite a young age. It was a perfect week for me, and I’m happy that I won the title in a really, really good final.

Was winning an ATP World tour title a goal you had growing up as a junior?

Of course. Unfortunately I lost my first final last year in Kitzbuhel. It was an unbelievably close match today and I’m so happy that I won it. Of course, it’s a big goal when you grow up.

You beat four seeds and five opponents in the Top 50, and didn’t drop a set going into the final. What did you do so well during the week against some tough competition? 

I had quite a tough draw. The first round Estrella, he's a really, really good player. Second round, Kyrgios, I got a little bit lucky that he retired, unfortunately. Against Ernests, it’s never easy. He’s a good friend. Against John Isner for the first time, everyone knows how tough it is to break him. In the final, it was incredible that Leonardo lost his serve only once in the tournament in the second set. It was one of the best matches I ever played.

This was your second ATP World Tour final. Did you go in with a different approach? Did you learn anything from Kitzbuhel last summer?

I think it’s not nice to lose the first final. Then you have a little pressure to win the first title. I’m happy that it’s gone now. Last year, I was maybe the favourite and I was a set and a break up, but today I was a little bit more of the outsider.

You lost the previous main draw meeting to Mayer in Hamburg last year. Did you look back at the match to learn what you needed to improve going into today’s match?

He was playing really well then and I was not playing so good, but also two months before Hamburg, I beat him in qualies in Madrid, which was also a tough, three-set match. I knew I had to play really good to beat him. For sure, I learned something from the loss in Hamburg.

You are the eighth player born in the 1990s after Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Bernard Tomic, Federico Delbonis, David Goffin, Jiri Vesely and Jack Sock to win an ATP World Tour title. What do you think about being mentioned in this group of young stars?

It’s really nice for me, because all the players from the 1990s who won an ATP World Tour title are amazing players, and it’s just a dream for me to be mentioned with them.

Your best results have come on clay. Is that your best surface? What do you feel are the strengths of your game?

Clay is my favourite surface. I grew up on it, but also I like hard courts. What I like more about clay is you have a little bit of Plan B. If you don’t play so well, you can grind it out a little bit and that’s what I like.

Who has been instrumental in helping you in your career?

My coach, my whole family - they came here today, which made me really happy. I’m very glad that I can give them the title now.

Who are the players you looked up to and admired growing up?

Honestly, I admire all the players who make it to the top in tennis because it’s really tough. So many players can play well in tennis, so I admire all players. Of course, I watch the best and try to learn something from them.

What are your goals for the remainder for the season?

Now it's the big highlight of the clay season, Roland Garros, and I’m full of self confidence for this tournament. After, I want to do much better than last year on grass and then it’s Kitzbuhel, my home tournament. The tennis year is full of highlights.