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Is Dominic Thiem turning the corner on hard courts? Austrian into back-to-back Masters 1000 hard-court semi-finals

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 15 Mar 2019
  • Dominic Thiem has reached the semi-finals in his second straight Masters 1000 tournament on hard courts
  • Thiem failed to go beyond the quarter finals in his first 27 Masters 1000 events on the surface
  • Thiem has said he hopes the presence of former Olympic champion, Nicolas Massu on his team will help him improve on the surface
Dominic Thiem. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Dominic Thiem's progress to the Indian Wells semi-finals means he has now made the last four at consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments on hard courts- is the 'Prince of Clay' turning the corner on the quicker surface?

Thiem has arguably been the second best player on clay over the last couple of season, behind the great Rafael Nadal, but he had been unable to reproduce his clay-court form on quicker surfaces. However, that could be about to change...

In his first 27 Masters 1000 tournaments on hard courts, Thiem did not make a single semi-final, but he has now reached the last four in consecutive Masters 1000 events, following up his Paris Masters semi-final at the end of last season with another semi at Indian Wells. Also, he failed to get past the fourth round in his first nine hard-court majors, but he finally crossed that hurdle at the 2018 US Open when he reached the last eight, coming agonizingly close to going even further as he held a match point against Nadal before falling shot in that epic Flushing Meadows contest. 

Thiem had formed a habit of gradually fading away post Roland Garros, and was barely winning matches in the hard-court stretch at the end of the year. He won just two matches after the US Open in 2014; that number improved to five in 2015; and then 6 in 2016, before sliding to three in 2017. Those figures were significantly better in 2018, as he went 10-5 after the US Open. The Austrian claimed the St. Petersburg- his second on hard courts- reached the quarter finals in Vienna, and then made that semi-final in Paris. All of that, after attaining his best Grand Slam result on a hard court at the US Open. 

There's certainly been a marked improvement in his hard court results relative to previous seasons. 

Dominic Thiem. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
His early season form was not in tune with that progress, as he went 1-2 between Doha and the Australian Open, where he was forced to retire in the second round, but those struggles were not restricted to hard courts, as he also never really got going in during the South American Golden Swing, limping to an ordinary 2-2 record. Clearly, something was not right with him in the opening months of the year, and it had nothing to do with hard courts.

There appears to be a genuine desire from Thiem to do better on hard courts, and that's reflected in the addition of Nicolas Massu to his team. Massu, like Thiem, did his best work on clay, but he enjoyed a significant piece of success on hard courts, winning the Olympic Gold medal in Athens in 2004.

"Every week he is improving a lot," Massu said. "We are trying to find better ideas to play on hard courts. He's very aggressive now", Massu said after Thiem's victory over Karlovic in the Indian Wells quarter finals.

This is only their third tournament together, and the early signs have been encouraging. Thiem has had some luck along the way at Indian Wells, with the in-form Gael Monfils withdrawing from their scheduled Indian Wells quarter finals, and the draw generally opening up for him, but he has taken care of business in his own end, which really, is all he can do. Thiem is yet to drop a set in his three matches at Indian Wells, opening with a 6-4 7-5 victory over Jordan Thompson, and then sprinting past Gilles Simon 6-3 6-1, before defusing the big-serving threats of Ivo Karlovic 6-3 6-4 in the quarter finals.

"The previous days here in Indian Wells helped me a lot to get back to my top level physically and also to play good tennis again," said Thiem, who had arrived very early at Indian Wells. "It was 11 days of good practice. That's where I got my good feeling and my good tennis and also the good physical health back."

Thiem will attempt to reach his maiden hard-court Masters 1000 final when he takes on Milos Raonic on Saturday, 16 March. Read the full match preview.

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Is Dominic Thiem turning the corner on hard courts? Austrian into back-to-back Masters 1000 hard-court semi-finals

Dominic Thiem's progress to the Indian Wells semi-finals means he has now made the last four at consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments on hard courts- is the 'Prince of Clay' turning the corner on the quicker surface?

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