Dominic Thiem went out of the 2016 Rome Masters on Friday losing to Kei Nishikori in straight sets. The day of action also saw Novak Djokovic, Lucas Pouille, and Andy Murray all advance. Andy Murray won the title on Sunday. While Thiem has to be disappointed with his quarterfinal loss, his future appears to be incredibly bright.
The Austrian defeated Roger Federer in the round of sixteen, perhaps exposing Fed as below par at the moment (or just 34 years old). Thiem, currently ranked 15th in the world, is still looking up at Federer and several other veterans on tour. However, when it comes to that there’s one glaring fact that can’t be ignored when it comes to Thiem’s potential: there’s no one ranked higher than him that is also younger.
In fact right now is a very interesting time on tour as it’s starting to look like a lot of the high-ranked players in the 30+ crowd are finally starting to lose their edges. Federer is a case in point, a detail that is currently hidden by his World No. 2 ranking. Unless he discovers his best tennis over the remainder of the spring and the summer, the Swiss Maestro will lose a ton of ranking points by the fall.
Stan Wawrinka, the reigning French Open champion, doesn’t appear to have his best game at this point either. Currently ranked 4th in the world he has 2000 ranking points to defend at the French Open later this month and into June. He does not appear poised to defend those points based on his results from Madrid and Rome. Generally, a player that is sliding down in the Top 5 and that is 31 years old keeps on heading downward. It could very well be that Swiss tennis will look a lot less dangerous on the men’s side of things come year’s end.
For French tennis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is currently 31 years old as well and he’s very quiet on tour lately. He pulled out of Rome early this week, but he didn’t have much when playing in Madrid last week. Tsonga had big results at the French Open and the US Open last year so unless he gets back to tip-top shape fast, he’ll be in danger of losing some ground as well.
Tomas Berdych, another veteran on tour that seems to be losing his edge, is 30 years old and he just got double bageled in Rome. The Czech Republic’s top player has no titles this year thus far with multiple losses to Nick Kyrgios and a more recent one to Damir Dzumhur. Berdych has got a trio of fourth-round appearances in the next three majors to duplicate over the spring/summer to help avoid losing ground. However, if David Goffin is working Berdych on clay to the tune of 6-0, 6-0 then something must be royally wrong with the World No. 8.
Spain’s David Ferrer has been in the Top 10 since October 11th, 2010 without missing a week. However, last year in Rome he made the semifinals and this year he only made the round of sixteen. That means he is going to drop some points on May 16th when the rankings update and it looks like it will be enough to take him out of the Top 10. He made the quarters at Roland Garros last year, but it’s hard to picture him doing that again this year. At the age of 34, he looks like he could stay in the Top 25 for a good while still should he desire it. However, a lot of former Top 5 players don’t like just hanging around and so you have to wonder how close Ferrer is to retirement.
At the opposite spectrum, Thiem is only 22 years old and he is currently 7th when it comes to results in 2016 alone. Nick Kyrgios is the only guy younger than Thiem currently in the Top 30. However Thiem is far better built for tennis than Kyrgios as the game truly favors guys that are within an inch of Thiem’s height (he’s 6’1).
All the recent World No. 1s have been between 6’1″ and 6’2″ and I think it’s because you start to lose some critical coordination once you get taller than that. Any shorter, like Ferrer, and you’re not enough of a presence at the service line or at the net.
There are definitely other young players to look at, like 19-year-old Borna Coric and 22-year-old Pouille. However, Thiem is the young man that’s already taken down a bunch of small titles on tour as he has five of them to his credit already. I don’t think he’s ready to win the 2016 French Open, but I fully expect to see him both in a Grand Slam quarterfinal soon and at the year-end ATP World Tour Finals.