Dominic Thiem’s disappointing 6-2 6-4 second round defeat to Jack Sock at the BNP Paribas Masters has thrown his World Tour Finals place into jeopardy. For months now it has looked as though the Austrian had more or less secured his spot at the O2 Arena. A mammoth season looks to be catching up with Thiem however, as burnout seems to have kicked in.
The 23-year-old should have booked his flight to London months ago. Thiem has been hard to miss on the ATP Tour throughout 2016. His clash with Sock in Bercy was his 106th match of the year across 27 tournaments. Despite many chances to cross the line in recent weeks he has failed to execute. Few doubt that he has brought this decline on himself.
Is the jam-packed year catching up with Dominic Thiem?
Dominic Thiem is burnt out. Everyone knows it. Everyone can see it. Everyone predicted it. Apart, seemingly, from Thiem and his team. Given that the rest of the top ten have ranged between 16 and 21 tournaments, his 27 looks grossly misjudged.
During the last month he has begun to visibly show the toll the year has taken on him physically. Just two wins in six matches indicates an air of fatigue. These losses may have been to decent calibre opponents – Jack Sock, Viktor Troicki, Alexander Zverev and Albert Ramos-Vinolas – but it was the manner of the defeats that causes concern. Three of the four were flat, straight set losses. Against Jack Sock in Paris he kicked off the match by losing ten straight points. Hardly the form of someone you want to see at the World Tour Finals.
Looking the practice schedule, feeling to see Thiem everywhere. Checking again : yep, 3 practices on sched for him. #HeJustNeverStops
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) October 30, 2016
Is the burnout necessarily a bad thing though? This is the Austrian’s first season competing at this level of the game, so if he is going to make mistakes it may as well be now. The major thing that Thiem has to take away from this year is better prioritisation of tournaments. A win-loss ratio of 10:8 in Masters events is simply not good enough for a player in the top ten. Yet, that record is disappointingly unsurprising when you consider Thiem basically overextended himself.
Who can usurp his spot at the World Tour Finals?
So now it’s simply a waiting game for Dominic Thiem. As things stand he is packing his bags and heading to London. However, there are still a number of permutations that could prevent him from making the short journey across the English Channel.
Only way #Thiem doesn’t qualify is if two of the following happen:
Cilic reaches QFs
Berdych reaches SF
Tsonga/RBA win title
— Gaspar Ribeiro Lança (@gasparlanca) November 2, 2016
The first point of note is that the list of four options will hastily become three by the close of play on Thursday. A third round meeting between Marin Cilic and David Goffin will ensure that one of them exits the tournament and – certainly in the Belgian’s case – the Race to London as well. Secondly, Roberto Bautista Agut has already made his exit at the hands of resurgent home favourite Gilles Simon, so he is also out of the running.
Should Cilic out-muscle Goffin he will move ahead of Thiem. That would leave either Tomas Berdych or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as the two remaining players that can spoil his party. The likelihood of either happening is minimal to say the least. Tsonga played some impressive ball last week in Vienna to reach his first final of the year. Most likely though, he will struggle to replicate that against a higher class field. In fact, he will do well to even come through his third round encounter with Kei Nishikori.
Will the ever-present Tomas Berdych spoil the party?
That leaves World Tour Finals veteran, Tomas Berdych. The consistent Czech is bidding for his seventh successful trip to London but has a hard task to get there. Ironically, it will probably be a Brit that denies him the trip. In order to reach the semi-finals and secure his place he needs to first beat Gilles Simon, and then topple either Lucas Pouille, Fernando Verdasco or Andy Murray. Given Murray’s recent form it seems unthinkable that he would lose to what is, quite frankly, a mediocre Berdych nowadays. However, with the added pressure of the race to be world number one, and fatigue, there is always a slim chance.
The Race to London is still very much on. Cilic versus Goffin is going to play a massive part in proceedings and that will be the one to capture imagination on Thursday. Whilst Dominic Thiem looks to have sneakily grabbed a final spot, it is a shame to see him wilt away in such disappointing fashion at the tail end of the season. He obviously deserves to play at the 02, but it will be frustrating for fans if he does not bring his A-game to the season ending event.