It’s proven mission impossible even for Roger Federer, but ironman Dominic Thiem is convinced he call pull off the rarest double in grand slam tennis to claim his long-awaited maiden major on Sunday night.
An inspired Thiem is intent on thwarting Novak Djokovic’s shot at more Melbourne Park history with victory over the Serbian superstar in their Australian Open final.
To do so, though, Thiem would need to produce a stirring encore of his colossal quarter-final defeat of world No.1 Rafael Nadal, while achieving the double scalp of the Spaniard and Djokovic en route to winning a major is indeed a rare feat.
Runner-up to Nadal in the past two French Open finals, Thiem acknowledges he faces an almighty mental and physical challenge – but says it’s up for it.
“Of course, I have less time to regenerate but with all the adrenaline and everything, it’s going to be fine,” Theim said after backing up his earth-moving win over Nadal with another spirited four-set semi-final triumph over Alexander Zverev on Friday night.
“I played two super intense matches – against Rafa and now against Sascha. So of course I’m going to feel it, especially tomorrow but going to have great treatment, easy hit tomorrow, and then of course try everything to be 100 per cent on Sunday night.”
Even during an incomparable 79-slam career, beating both Nadal and Djokovic to win a major has proven a bridge too far for Federer.
The great Swiss came within a point of achieving the feat at Wimbledon last year, while Federer’s countryman Stan Wawrinka showed in Melbourne in 2014 that it can be done – though his success over an injured Nadal in the final came with an asterisk.
And Thiem earnestly believes, having shed his tag as a claycourt bully with a breakthrough title at last year’s prestigious Indian Wells Masters.
“That victory gave me so much relief and so much confidence because finally got my first Masters 1000 title on hard court,” said the world No.5.
Dominic Thiem speaks after reaching the Australian Open final
“Then I think last fall in Asia, then in the indoor season, I made this huge step forward. I really developed my game I think in the right direction.
“I got more aggressive on hard courts, started to serve smarter and to return better.
“That also gave me a lot of confidence for this new year and for Australia because I told myself if I can be in the finals in London, the ATP Finals, why not as well in a hard court slam?
“Since then I know that I’m also playing very well on the faster surfaces.”
Dominic Thiem v Alexander Zverev: AO Highlights
With four wins over Djokovic in their past five meetings, it’s not like the Serb holds any psychological hold over Thiem either.
The Austrian does concede that Djokovic at Rod Laver Arena, where he’s won all seven of his finals including last year’s in three crushing sets over Nadal, is a slightly different proposition.
“I have to keep a good balance. Of course, I have to risk a lot. I have to go for many shots,” 26-year-old Thiem said.
“At the same time, of course, not too much. That’s a very thin line. In the last match against him, hit that line perfectly in London.
Thiem’s post-match interview
“Of course, (I’m) going to take a look at that match, how I played, and try to repeat it.
“But for sure he’s the favourite. I mean, he won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one.
“I’m feeling good on the court. I’m playing great tennis. So (I will) try to be at my absolutely best on Sunday.”
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