Who said that Dominic Thiem can bring his best tennis only on clay courts?

The Austrian completed a dream fortnight on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open by toppling Roger Federer for his first ATP Masters 1000 title. Fans perhaps best know Thiem for his clay-court prowess, but the high-bouncing hard courts in Indian Wells suited his game perfectly and his skills on slower surfaces seamlessly transferred over.

“It feels unreal what happened in these 10 days. I came with really bad form in all categories and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells,” said Thiem. “It’s amazing that I did my first big title here on a different surface than clay. I turned a pretty bad start to the season to a very good one.”


After a first-round exit last month at the Rio Open presented by Claro, Thiem was able to prepare for nearly two weeks in Indian Wells with new coach Nicolas Massu. The hours logged on the practise court were evident and Thiem delivered a high-quality brand of attacking tennis that gave no indication of his 3-4 record to start the season.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of his title run is who he defeated. After beating Milos Raonic in the semi-finals for the first time in their three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, Thiem took out Federer for the first time on a hard court. He became one of at least five players to defeat Federer on all three surfaces, joining Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Patrick Rafter.

But Thiem was quick to praise Federer after the match and said he will likely never catch up to the Swiss star’s 100 tour-level singles titles. He also noted how difficult it still is to beat Federer, in part because of everything he’s accomplished throughout his career.

“He’s such a legend. For all of us younger players, it’s a privilege to still be able to compete with him and play against him in the finals of big tournaments like this one,” said Thiem. “Against Roger, Rafa, Novak, and some other guys, you have to beat not only the player, but also the great aura they have and all these titles they have won. You have to play doubly good to beat them.”

Thiem’s victory at Indian Wells moves him up to No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, matching his career-best standing. He also jumps well inside the Top 8 of the ATP Race To London. But with his first match at the Miami Open presented by Itau less than a week away, Thiem is already looking forward to hitting the practise courts and continuing his top form.

“Of course, the title is amazing [and] it will stay there forever,” said Thiem. “But it would be nice if I could hold this shape and all of these positive emotions in the next tournament and every tournament I play.”