Thiem's fairytale return. After two years away, the Austrian is setting himself up as a major contender, and crowd favorite in 2023.

It took about an hour for the roars for Dominic Thiem to really get going in Vienna's  Stadthalle last Tuesday. The Austrian had been soundly beaten, 6-2 by Tommy Paul in the first set of their opening-round match.

But now Thiem was digging in for the long haul, and the crowd could sense it.

He began to take more time between points, and use his serve more thoughtfully. He signalled his determination with small but regular fist-pumps. He saved break-points and refused to fall behind early in the set.

He had the look of a man dead set on winning a match, no matter how long it took, or how unlikely it seemed.

Thiem's home country fans, who hadn't seen him here in two years, backed him as loudly as they could. For the next two sets, Vienna sounded like New York.

Welcome to Domonic  Thiem 2.0. For most of his 20s, he was an heir apparent to the Big Three. He was a two-time runner-up to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, and the first player of his generation to win a major, at the pandemic wracked 2020 US Open.

That was just two years ago, but it seems like a lifetime in Thiem's career. First, he had a letdown after that breakthrough Slam title. Then he had a wrist injury and a finger injury. Then he had Covid.

He went 426 days without winning a match, a run of futility that finally ended in July. While he was gone, not one but two younger players Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz came along to win the US Open and reach No.1.

It's obviously unfortunate that a great player lost two years of his career. But now Thiem has a chance to experience the upside, because everyone loves a comeback story.

He was always going to be the crowd favorite in Vienna, but the same was true earlier this month when he made the semi-finals in Gijon and Antwerp.When Thiem was in his mid-20s and deep in the shadows of the Big Three, many of us took his game for granted :

The leaping forehand, the lethally whipped one-handed backhand, and the sudden uncontrollable outbursts in German.

Fans are happy to see all of that again, and happy that he didn't fade out of the game early, which seemed possible just a few months ago. The Thiem story has another, more sympathetic, more relatable layer to it now.

The World Students Society thanks The News, / Tennis.com


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