Dominic Thiem has shot to the top of the men’s professional game over the last few years.
He is a player that takes massive cuts at the ball and had a breakthrough win at Madrid Masters back in 2014.
He topped Stan Wawrinka on the Spanish clay to really make his first significant statement on the ATP Tour.
Back then it was clear to see how Thiem could go on to do great things in the sport.
As a raw talent, Thiem had unbelievable natural power that helped him hit through players.
As a very athletic player, he has the ability to turn defense into attack with ease and stay in points longer than most.
In this sense, he is a dominant baseline player that has improved his net game, serve and generally controlling his power no end.
One of the key factors that stood out is how both Dominic Thiem’s forehand and backhand had similar levels of power and consistency.
This also helped Stan Wawrinka rise to the top of the game, giving opponents nowhere to hide as he could hit winners from anywhere on the court using both wings.
Since that day in 2014, Thiem has gradually risen to the top of the men’s game.
He has become a dominant force that can beat any other top player on his day, but also has developed the consistency to compete at the highest levels throughout the season.
Whilst the backhand was initially a very impressive facet of his game, the Dominic Thiem forehand has improved greatly, as he has adapted his technique and tactics to suit faster surfaces over the last few years.
This has led to him winning the US Open in 2020, a feat that many would not have thought possible having seen his game style in 2014.
Therefore, we will break down just how Dominic Thiem’s forehand has become a force to be reckoned with, catapulting him to the top of men’s tennis.
How Thiem Has Adapted His Game
Thiem was predominantly an aggressive baseline player when he burst onto the scene in 2014.
Relying heavily on his fitness, physical strength and relentless attacking groundstrokes, he would wear players down with no mercy.
However, whilst this strategy proved very successful on clay, Dominic’s results on faster surfaces such as grass and indoor hard courts let him down.
Also, when he came up against the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, he would eventually lose out to their superior shot making skills and experience.
This meant that Thiem had to make certain adjustments to his game in order to compete with the game’s elite.
A major part of Thiem’s development have been his coaches over the years. Gunter Bresnik coached Thiem from 2002-2019, building very solid foundations in the Austrian’s career.
He focussed on building functional strength and fitness, whilst developing Thiem’s game around a big serve and aggressive groundstrokes.
This partnership took him to 2 french open finals, where he fell short to the undisputed king of clay, Rafael Nadal.
Up until this point, Thiem had thrived on building points from the back of the court. Sitting deep and working his way into rallies with long and powerful swings.
This worked extremely well on high bouncing surfaces like clay and slow hard courts, but was less potent on faster courts such as grass or fast paced hard courts.
However, prior to Indian Wells in 2019, Thiem started working with his current coach Nicolas Massu.
Thiem went on to claim the title, his first Masters 1000 by beating ROger Federer in 3 tough sets.
This was a different Thiem to what we had seen before. Whilst he still preferred to dominate from the baseline, he was persistent with stepping inside the court and using the pace of the surface to his advantage.
This was a key turning point for the Austrian star, as he started to become more comfortable on the faster surfaces, particularly by using his forehand more effectively.
He had shortened his backswing and altered his racket preparation, which allowed him to take the ball earlier and finish points with a sledgehammer strike.
This was a game changer for Thiem, as he now had the ability to take time away from players, as well as defend, rip heavy forehands and backhands and had also improved his net skills and touch shots.
Another major example of how Thiem has let rip with his more compact forehand is against Novak Djokovic in the 2019 ATP World Tour Finals in London.
This match contained some of the best ball striking I have ever seen from both players, with Thiem putting on an absolute masterclass in holding tight to the baseline and clubbing forehands and backhands.
He simply refused to give up any real estate, and whilst this was a tight three set match with the world number one at the time, Dominic really flattened out his forehand and was able to hit through Djokovic, a player renowned for his anticipation and defensive skills.
All in all, Thiem has become a much more complete player over the last few years, which has been reflected in his steady rise up the rankings towards the top of the game.
This has in no doubt been down to the improvements, both technically and tactically he has made to his forehand, allowing him to rely on it more in tight moments.
Therefore, we will dissect just how he did it, analysing the subtle changes that have been made to the Dominic Thiem Forehand.
Dominic Thiem’s Forehand Technique
Dominic Thiem’s forehand has evolved into a real weapon in his game.
Alongside a strong serve clocking in excess of 130mph, one of the most powerful and technically sound one handed backhands on tour and ever improving volleys and touch, the forehand is now a stand out feature of Thiem’s game.
However, as we have mentioned, this was not always the case. The introduction of Nicolas Massu in early 2019 saw a real change in the Thiem forehand from both a technical and tactical perspective.
He actually shortened his backswing and changed the positioning of his take back, allowing him more time on the ball and a simpler swing.
This video from Top Tennis Training gives a good indication of how the Dominic Thiem forehand has evolved over the years.
It is clear to see that his forehand back in 2014 had a much larger loop to it, with his racket facing the other end of the court in the racket preparation phase.
Whilst this helped him crush high balls on clay and slower hard courts, it actually hindered him on faster surfaces where the ball bounced lower.
This is because he was not able to time the ball as well with such long swings, especially when trying to take the ball early and be aggressive.
In fact, it was not uncommon to see Dominic spray wild forehands out of the court or even frame a few from time to time as he struggled to control the ball.
However, from 2019 onwards Thiem’s forehand take back now faces up rather than inside the court.
This combined with a smaller racket loop on his backswing mean that he is much better able to deal with short, low and faster balls on the forehand side.
He is now able to take the ball on the rise with much more consistency, sometimes taking it on the half volley and rushing to the net to surprise his opponent and force an error.
Ultimately, Thiem shortening his forehand swing by altering the racket head position in the preparation phase of his forehand has allowed him to take advantage of faster surfaces and implement his powerful game more effectively.
This has translated into significant improvements in his results on hard courts, reaching the finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in 2019 and winning the 2020 US Open.
Like all great players, Thiem has the ability to adapt his game style to different conditions, opponents and surfaces.
However, he is certainly most comfortable when playing aggressive tennis and dominating from the baseline.
He is now very confident in running around his marvelous backhand to hit his heavy whipping forehand, allowing him to open up the court and break down his opponent’s backhand.
He does this by hitting heavy inside out forehands, helping him to soften up an advisory, before he strikes with a forehand down the line or mops up a short reply.
The Dominic Thiem forehand is a real weapon that can be used in a variety of ways.
Of late he has really started to use his instance racket head speed to whip up the back of short sliced balls around the service line, helping him have an easier time when volleying up close to the net.
This in turn has improved his confidence in his volleys and we have even seen him serve and volley more often on faster hard courts.
Overall, Thiem likes to use his forehand to wear his opponents down, pulling them from corner to corner and waiting for a shorter ball that he can pounce on and put away.
Moreover, flattening out the forehand, taking it on the rise and stepping inside the court to hit the ball earlier are all welcome additions to his game, making him an even more complete player.
What You Can Learn From Thiem
Amatuer players around the world should take a page out of Dominic Thiem’s book when it comes to work ethic and dedication to fitness.
He is right up there with the fittest and strongest players on the ATP Tour, which along with his quick feet and impressive footwork allow him to always be in position to strike the ball when and where he wants.
He has always seeked to develop his game, particularly his forehand over the last few years, which many players can learn from.
This is a lesson in continuous improvement from one of the world’s best. Always see if you can find ways to improve your game and don’t be afraid to make changes, even if things are going well.
You never know what success you may be leaving on the table!