Thiem Sees 'Huge Challenge' To Repeat US Open Success In Paris
US Open champion sets sights on another deep run at Roland Garros
“I felt great coming here because, I've achieved such a big goal,” said Thiem on Friday, in Paris. “At one point, whatever comes now is somehow a bonus. On the other hand, I want to do the best I can in every single tournament I play. Especially here in Roland Garros, [where] I [had] four crazy years with two semi-finals [and] two finals.
“I love the conditions here. I love the whole tournament. First practice yesterday, I straight away felt great with the conditions, with the clay, in the Suzanne Lenglen stadium. I tried to not think too much about the US Open, but to see this as a new tournament, as a new challenge. To be as good as possible from the first point on.”
“I was enjoying that obviously at home with family and friends,” said Thiem, who played on clay in Austria for two days prior to arriving in Paris on Wednesday. “I tried not to lose all the tension, tried not to do nothing for too long. I did nothing for three or four days, then I started to practise on clay. But I'll see how I handle all the emotions, also all the physical challenges which happened in New York. In the past, I was not that great playing the tournaments, after big titles like [the BNP Paribas Open in] Indian Wells last year or [the Erste Bank Open in] Vienna. I've always played not that great the following week. I will try to do it differently here in Paris [and] try to be on top of my game from Monday onwards.”
The 27-year-old Austrian could rise to a career-high No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings should he go on to capture the Roland Garros crown, but Thiem isn’t ruling out 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, who has a 93-2 record at the Paris major.
“I think he's always going to be the big-time favourite when he's playing, when he's healthy and fit,” said Thiem. “I think he is… the big favourite, just because of the past. He won the tournament 12 times, which is just incredible. He's by far the best clay-court player ever. But there are some slight changes. The balls are a little bit different… It can be super rainy, super cold end of September, beginning of October. Maybe that's a little bit tougher for him.
“For me, it's the same. I also love [it] when it's hot, when the ball bounces high. Maybe it's a little bit better conditions for Novak [Djokovic]. Rafa is the huge favourite than Novak, because of all his titles, all the experience. Then I guess, there is [apart from me] three other players, like Sascha [Zverev], Daniil [Medvedev] and Stefanos [Tsitsipas].”
With six days of clay-court practise under his belt by Monday, when he will face two-time former quarter-finalist Marin Cilic, Thiem is anxious.
“I have to see how I handle the New York title, because obviously it was physically and mentally very demanding,” said Thiem. “I hope that I'm 100 per cent ready on Monday. All of that is a huge challenge for both of us [Nicolas Massu and Thiem], for all my team. But they are great. They are preparing me really well all the time, for all the tournaments. So I hope they're going to do it again here in Paris.”