After being previously tipped as a future French Open champion by claycourt master Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem has been branded the “leader of a new generation” by world number one Novak Djokovic.
The 22-year-old Austrian, who will break into the top 10 of the world rankings next week, was crushed 6-2 6-1 6-4 by Djokovic in the semi-finals at Roland Garros on Friday.
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“Best performance of the tournament,” the Serb told reporters of his own display before heaping praise on his 13th- seeded opponent.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis and Pole Jerzy Janowicz have also been hailed recently as the next big thing in tennis but they failed to live up to the tag.
Why might Thiem succeed? Attitude is a factor, said Djokovic.
“He carries himself very well on and off the court for his age,” added the world number one. “He’s a leader of a new generation, very powerful, and has a lot of strength and variety in his game.
“I managed to handle his heavy spin very well today but I’m sure that, as I told him after the match, we’re going to see a lot of him in the future if he continues doing so well.”
Thiem, who boasts a stunning single-handed backhand reminiscent of Stan Wawrinka, a booming forehand and a powerful serve, was not content with reaching the last four.
“Of course semis is a very good result for me but right now I’m really still thinking about the match, still thinking about the loss and after every loss I’m disappointed,” he said.
Thiem will go up to seventh in the world on Monday, becoming the youngest member of the top 10.
“It’s a big milestone, I think, for every tennis player,” he said. “Right now I’m not really happy about it but I hope that I can be when I see the new rankings.”