Dominic Thiem has been on the verge of making his Grand Slam breakthrough for the past two years at the French Open, only to be denied by the brilliance of Rafael Nadal. The Austrian has reached the final of Roland Garros in successive years, producing quality tennis on clay.
However, the master of the surface Nadal has prevented the 25-year-old from earning his first Grand Slam title. He defeated Thiem in straight sets in 2018, and although the Austrian improved the level of his performance this year, Nadal was still able to secure his 12th French Open title.
The big three of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s imperious hold over the major crowns in men’s tennis has prevented the next generation from making an impact. Few players have managed to make their mark outside of them other than Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka.
There are promising talents emerging, including Thiem and Alexander Zverev, who have broken into the top five in the world rankings. However, both players are yet to prove themselves on the greatest stage by taking down one of the three elite players in a Grand Slam final.
Thiem has impressed at the French Open, reaching at least the semi-finals for the last four years. Outside of Roland Garros, the Austrian has made a minimal impact at the other Grand Slams. He has not progressed beyond round four of Wimbledon – where he will be expected to mount a challenge for the crown after his performance in France. As a result of his poor performances at the All England Club, Thiem has value at 33/1 in the Wimbledon men’s odds, although he will have to make a significant improvement on grass to even reach the second week of the competition.
Last season Thiem’s tournament ended in the first round against Marco Baghdatis. He was 2-0 down in sets before suffering from a back injury, which ended his participation in the contest. His best run at the All England Club came in 2017 when he surged through to the fourth round as the eighth seed.
Thiem defeated Vasek Pospisil, Gilles Simon and Jared Donaldson before being faced with the prospect of former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. The two players played out a thrilling match, but the experience of the Czech proved to be vital in the deciding set, edging his way through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Thiem.
The 25-year-old seemingly has all the tools to make a charge this season. He has a victory over Federer under his belt at the Masters 1000 Series at Indian Wells in March along with a triumph over Djokovic to reach the French Open final. However, he does not seem to suit the grass court style of play, with only one of his 13 ATP Tour titles coming on the surface in 2016 when he beat Philipp Kohlschreiber at the Stuttgart Open.
The big three cannot continue to dominate men’s tennis forever, but one of the next generation of players have to make their move sooner or later to break the imperious hold once and for all.