Massu, A Year After Thiem’s Title At Indian Wells: “It Laid The Foundations”

Chilean looks back at Thiem’s 2019 triumph in Indian Wells

Tuesday marked one year since Dominic Thiem’s title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. It is still the biggest title of his career and it may come as a surprise that before the tournament, the Austrian had a 3-4 record for the season. A key in his change of mentality was committing to a team led by the Chilean Nicolas Massu.

“We started to prepare for that tournament in Rio de Janeiro, just after Dominic lost there in [round one],” remembers the former World No. 9. “We were on a fast court and we trained for nearly seven days there in Brazil in very intense heat. Then we travelled to Indian Wells, where we had a kind of two-week pre-season. He had had several problems in Australia and he lacked a little fitness. All those hours of work were essential.”

Thiem progressed to the quarter-finals in Indian Wells without dropping a set, before outlasting Milos Raonic and Roger Federer in back-to-back thrillers to take the title.

“There were so many positive feelings,” Massu told ATPTour.com. “Winning the last point against Roger in the final was the most exciting moment, it meant sealing a very important title, his first in an ATP Masters 1000 and after such a short time working together.”

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The first goal they had set themselves in February — playing better on fast courts — had been passed with flying colours. Approaching the Austrian’s return of serve from a different perspective proved vital. In the desert, Thiem started to get used to returning inside or on the baseline. The gains were immediate.

“We did small things that made the difference,” said Massu, who also advised his pupil during that fortnight to mix up the spin and dare to play surprising shots to shorten points. “That tournament laid the foundations. There was progress on fast courts, which is why he called me in.”

Since then, Thiem has not only been more versatile with his returns, he has also started to approach the net more often and vary his own serve. In a nutshell, he has evolved.

“Massu has really made big changes to my game, great additions. Somehow, he made my game less predictable,” said Thiem after winning in Vienna last year.

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The changes helped him win three of his five titles in 2019 on hard courts. He won more trophies on the surface last year than he had in the rest of his career (2). In addition, he ended 2019 as runner-up at the Nitto ATP Finals (l. to Tsitsipas) and began 2020 with a run to his first Grand Slam final on hard courts at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic).

“I have experienced many important situations alongside Dominic that I evaluate in the same way. From winning tournaments to winning Grand Slam semi-finals. All those victories gave me very similar feelings. They gave me a lot of joy because they are the products of many hours of work,” stressed Massu.

The Chilean has now enjoyed a year of moments to celebrate alongside Thiem. He may never forget the first that came on 17 March 2019, the day when both of them became masters.