Dominic Thiem has confessed that returning to the restrictive tennis COVID bubble at next month’s start in Madrid may be one of the biggest challenges of his season.
The reigning US Open winner who has not played on the ATP for well over a month has made no secret that coming back to the gilded Tour cage is not something he relishes.
The Austrian ranked fourth sat out Miami and Monte Carlo, partly because he could just not face the constraints of hotel-to-venue isolation; he was also healing an injury.
“I’ve had a completely planned life for as long as I can remember,” the 27-year-old told Vienna’s Der Standard.
“Every day, every week, every month is divided. I feel better knowing what will happen the next day. That’s gone right now.”
Thiem said the joy and spontaneity has gone out of the sport amid the COVID crisis lockdown which reduce tournament showcourts to mere training venues with crowds missing.
The joy of world travel has also disappeared for Thiem in the new normal:
“Corona has taken beautiful things, starting with traveling and moving freely. The bad things stay,” he said.
“It’s difficult to play week after week in these circumstances. There are guys who can take it, for whom life in the bubble is probably an advantage, for example Brit Dan) Evans or (Alexander) Bublik.
“They have problems focusing on sport in normal situations. It’s great for them, they concentrate exclusively on tennis, there is nothing else.”
Thiem said Dubai last month was a worst-case scenario for him and his morale,
“It was extreme in Dubai, we were locked up, but outside of it there was normal life. You were let out of the hotel at 9pm and allowed to enter an empty stadium. That’s not so great.”