Thiem determined to win major in Big Three era: ‘It just counts more’

andrew hendrie:

Dominic Thiem is more determined than ever to secure a Grand Slam in the ‘Big Three’ era after falling agonisingly short against Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

After losing to Rafael Nadal in two Roland Garros finals, Thiem was outlasted by Djokovic in Sunday night’s Australian Open title match, going down in five sets after almost four hours of play.

Nadal is 12-0 in Roland Garros finals and Djokovic is now 8-0 in Australian Open finals. Thiem could be forgiven for thinking he’s unlucky to be playing in an era that has produced the three greatest champions the sport has ever seen, but the Austrian is motivated to win a major title while Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer are still playing.

“These guys brought tennis to a complete new level. They also brought me probably to a much better level,” Thiem said.

“It was easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, that’s 100 per cent. But I’m happy I can compete with these guys on the best level. I really also hope that I win my maiden Slam when they’re still around, because it just counts more.”

It’s slow but steady progress for Thiem. The 26-year-old didn’t win a set against Nadal in his first major final in Paris in 2018, but he did manage to win one against the Spaniard last year.

Thiem led Djokovic by two-sets-to-one before succumbing in five, perhaps due to the fact he spent six hours longer on court than the Serbian leading into the final.

Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic (Photo by Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Stan Wawrinka remains the only man to have won a Grand Slam title while beating Nadal and Djokovic in the same tournament when he did so at the 2014 Australian Open – and even then, Nadal suffered a back injury in the final of that tournament.

“It’s unique in sports history that the three best players by far are playing in the same era. That’s what makes it very, very difficult for other players to break through,” Thiem said of the Big Three.

“As a different player than them, you have to beat at least two of them to win a big title. Almost all players [have] failed to do that. That’s what makes it so tough.”

Read more: Djokovic’s relentless pursuit of more major trophies

While the Big Three are maintaining a stranglehold on the major prizes – they’ve won the last 13 Grand Slams – the younger brigade are slowly but surely making progress.

Daniil Medvedev stretched Nadal to five sets at the U.S. Open in September and now Thiem has done the same to Djokovic in Melbourne.

“In the past two [major] finals — [at the] US Open and here — it was really close. It could have gone either way for Daniil in the US Open and for me here,” Thiem said, referencing Medvedev’s five-set loss against Nadal in Flushing Meadows.

“It takes nothing more than just a little bit luck, little details there.”