Thiem says catch­ing Big Four still ‘long ways’ off

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Do­minic Thiem, the high­es­tranked men’s ten­nis player with­out a Grand Slam ti­tle, be­gins his push to the US Open this week know­ing the gap to the game’s big four re­mains large.

The 23-year-old Aus­trian, ranked a ca­reer­high sev­enth, and 20-year-old Ger­man Alexan­der Zverev, who reached a ca­reer-best eighth on Mon­day, are the top-ranked men’s play­ers at the ATP and WTA Citi Open. “We still have to win a lot of matches to de­serve to be called the next big things in ten­nis,” Thiem said Mon­day. “It’s nice to hear that but I think it’s still a pretty long ways for both of us.”

World num­ber one Andy Mur­ray, sec­on­dranked Rafael Nadal, num­ber three Roger Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic, who will miss the rest of the year with an el­bow in­jury, re­main the gold stan­dard in their 30s that Thiem and his fel­low 20-some­things are chas­ing in the rank­ings and for Grand Slam crowns.

“They are re­ally spe­cial. It’s very un­usual you have four play­ers like this in one gen­er­a­tion,” Thiem said. “I think it’s get­ting a lit­tle bet­ter for the other play­ers. They are start­ing to take a few tour­na­ments. In the Grand Slams you would have to beat two or three (of them) in a run. That’s why other play­ers haven’t won the big ti­tles.”

Thiem de­feated Djokovic in the French Open quar­ter-fi­nals to reach the last four at Roland Gar­ros for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year. He lost there to Rafael Nadal, as he had in the Madrid and Barcelona fi­nals, but Thiem rec­og­nizes the value of a strong run-up to a Slam with the US Open loom­ing in just four weeks.

“It’s im­por­tant to find a strong game. It’s the start of a very long jour­ney,” Thiem said. “I hope it works out well here in Wash­ing­ton. We have a lot of tough matches ahead. From round one ba­si­cally there are only re­ally tough matches.”

This week is Thiem’s big­gest event as a top seed and one he ex­pects will toughen him for up­com­ing US Open tune-ups at Mon­treal and Cincin­nati. “Of course it’s nice to be top seed here but it doesn’t af­fect any­thing be­cause the guys be­hind me are re­ally strong,” he said.

Thiem does not mar­vel at how play­ers like Fed­erer and Nadal play top ten­nis deep into their 30s, hav­ing fol­lowed their fit­ness path. “It’s ev­ery­thing on how you are tak­ing care of your body,” he said. “Play­ers have im­proved that a lot in re­cent years. It’s the diet. Ev­ery­one has a physio. They get treat­ment after ev­ery prac­tice. “It’s small things but if you do them ev­ery day for 15 years it has an im­pact.” —AFP

BU­DAPEST: Hun­gary’s Katinka Hosszu com­petes in the fi­nal of the women’s 400m in­di­vid­ual med­ley dur­ing the swim­ming com­pe­ti­tion at the 2017 FINA World Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest. — AFP

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