A crushing defeat after leading Novak Djokovic by two sets to one last year has become one of the driving forces behind the Austrian’s success

Dominic Thiem smiles as he reflects on the past 12 months, the greatest of his career, and says: “I reached the biggest goal I ever had in my sporting life so that was a great, great achievement.” On a Zoom call from across the world in Adelaide, Thiem was recalling a year during which he brushed aside the strangeness of competing in a pandemic to win his first grand slam title at the US Open in a five-set psychodrama against Alexander Zverev.

In the end he finished the year ranked third in the world, which does not actually flatter his achievements. He earned the second highest number of ranking points in 2020, behind only Novak Djokovic, and his grand slam tournament results – a title, a final and a quarter-final – outclassed Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Through it all, he has finally learned exactly how life changes when you achieve the goal of your life: not that much.

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