August 21, 2020
New York, New York, USA
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Curious for you, Daniil Medvedev was in here earlier talking about not playing any of the exhibition events and how it would prepare him coming back to competition. You have played a lot of exhibition events. How much do you think that will play a role in your readiness for this return to the tour?
DOMINIC THIEM: Maybe it's a little advantage, but exhibition match is still exhibition match. I played 28 of them, and not one single of them felt like a normal tour match.
So of course it was great to play them, great to compete with the other guys, but there is just not the tension, just not the full concentration like there is on a normal tour match.
So I guess everybody starts at zero here in Cincinnati.
Q. Why did you want to play so many exhibition matches? I think that number is probably higher than almost everyone else's, 28 matches.
DOMINIC THIEM: Well, I mean, I think 15 of them or something came in the first tournament in Austria, which was 10 minutes from my home and at the site where I practiced for 10 years. So it was not that difficult a situation to play there.
The other ones were super nice exhibitions, and I was also happy to see other players, to travel a bit again so the decision to make these journeys was easy. And also, I did my own Thiem's 7, which was a great, great week. That's why I did it.
I mean, I stayed home before for two months and that was enough, I guess, and I was ready to compete again, ready to travel again. There were chances coming up with these exhibitions, so I took it and it was very nice, actually.
Q. I'm wondering what in your mind was your level of worry or nervousness about traveling to the United States and playing in tournaments here while the pandemic is still going on? And what you think about the idea -- some people say maybe there should be an asterisk next to the 2020 US Open just because it won't have every player that might otherwise have been participating and other unusual circumstances going on with that tournament.
DOMINIC THIEM: Honestly, I'm zero percent nervous or scared about traveling here. I think we are safer than anywhere else on the whole planet in this whole bubble here.
It's different. The one who wins the title here definitely deserves it, and players-wise or draw-wise, it's worth the same like every year, because there already were years Roger or Rafa were not playing because of injuries or some other stuff.
But it's not the same in kind of the crowd, the whole energy that the crowd gives in terms of the lifestyle of a normal slam, because it's super exhausting, as well, living the normal life besides a slam, so that makes it different, I guess, being in the bubble.
But at the end, in 20, 30 years, Grand Slam winner will be a Grand Slam winner no matter what the circumstances were.
Q. It's no secret that a lot of the players love the food in New York when they come, whether it's Nobu or any of those restaurants. So I'm curious, have the guys been talking about the different places they are ordering in from? What have been the popular spots? What's that whole situation been like?
DOMINIC THIEM: No, we were not talking that much about that topic yet. But there are many great restaurants to order from, definitely. The food on-site is the same like the last years, which was great. I loved always the food here at the US Open. And it's the same, just that there is no restaurants where we get it into our suite, the food. So that's the only difference.
But in general, we are getting treated very good.
Q. How do you imagine will be the return of tennis, Cincinnati without Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal?
DOMINIC THIEM: As I said before, the draw is still super, super strong. There were many tournaments, as well, in previous years where there was no Rafa, where there was no Roger.
Well, it doesn't really matter if they are competing here or not. The title is worth the same. Of course the other circumstances, no fans, no special energy, not many people on-site, not a normal lifestyle of a tournament, of a Grand Slam tournament. So that's the huge difference.
Q. Specifically you mentioned briefly the idea of there not being fans. I'm just wondering, for you, do you think -- we have seen in other team sports no spectators. I'm wondering whether specifically in an individual sport like yours whether you think it's an even bigger deal to play without spectators, not have that sort of support that maybe you can get when you are playing with a crowd of thousands of people there.
DOMINIC THIEM: Tennis is such a mental sport, and I guess it makes it way more difficult without fans, because I just imagine playing in the fifth set on Arthur Ashe, night session, way past midnight, and in a normal year you get so much energy from the fans. They give you so much, all this atmosphere.
And now, in an empty stadium, maybe your coach and your team is there, these are the only people, that makes it, I guess, very, very lonely, very, very tough, and that's going to be a very interesting thing to experience.
But it's the same for everybody. The one who will do it the best, who will manage these special circumstances the best, I guess, will be the one who lifts the trophy at the end.
Q. You missed the last US Open with an illness. You have been nibbling right around the edges of the top ranking and to make yourself equal with the big three. How has this break either affected or changed your thinking, or what kind of position does it leave you in further to challenge these guys?
DOMINIC THIEM: I was very close to them before the break, with the five-set loss in the finals of the Australian Open, and I guess or I hope that not that much changed during the break.
I guess everybody was practicing well. Everybody is still playing great tennis. I'm curious how the first two tournaments are going. Of course I hope that I got even a little bit closer to that gap between me and two guys, three guys ahead of me. We'll see in these two weeks, I guess.
Q. You played a lot during the break. Some players didn't play at all. Was your intention mainly to stay match sharp or fistically sharp, or what was your strategy in that?
DOMINIC THIEM: Everything of that, the first 15 matches I played on-site where I practiced for 10 years, it's 10 minutes from where I live, so it was super easy to take that decision.
After two, three months I was ready to travel again. Of course I wanted to compete, I wanted to see the other guys, as well, so I played many exhibitions. I hosted my own exhibition, which was very interesting experience to be part of the organization a little bit.
But, well, I played 28 matches, as I said before, but not a single one of them felt like a real tour match, because there is just some tension missing, there is just some concentration, some focus missing.
So I guess that it really doesn't matter that much how many exhibition matches somebody played during the break.
Q. I'm curious on the physical challenge of the calendar now that's coming up, you have a Masters event a week before a Grand Slam, which has not happened during your career before, and another Masters event the week after this Grand Slam, and the Grand Slam obviously would best of five for the men. So what do you think that's going to be like as a schedule challenge for you and for the other guys?
DOMINIC THIEM: You have to play your cards smart there, I guess. You have to decide short term of course these two tournaments. We're all going to play. And then I see how it's going to go, and I decide if I go to Rome or not. And then French Open, which is obviously huge goal of the season still now.
Depends how it goes here. Depends how it goes in Paris. Then I will think about the schedule.
But definitely until the end of the season, it's super busy, and also not going to be easy to make a good schedule, to play all those tournaments physically and mentally 100%. But I try to do my best now Cincinnati and US Open and then reschedule or see what my plan is going to look like.
Q. Novak Djokovic said something like he would have been open to conversations about maybe US Open being best of three or Grand Slams being best of three this year because of the unique circumstances. Would you have been open to that?
DOMINIC THIEM: I didn't hear too much about that. Well, US Open is now anyway best of five. I guess French Open as well. So there were not that many discussions about it.
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