Built to Last: From Good to Bad to Great

Dominic Thiem is a 22-year-old Austrian tennis pro currently ranked No. 8 in the world.

But to achieve that ranking took some courage and confidence in himself and his coach.

Thiem was one of the best players in his age group in Austria when his coach encouraged him to change from a two-handed to a one-handed backhand.

The change took a while to work; Thiem didn’t win a match for one-and-a-half years. His ranking dropped from top three in Austria to the 20s.

His coach, Gunter Bresnick, remembers how other coaches and parents reacted. “Everybody called me an idiot and his parents stupid.”

But Thiem had faith in his coach, remarking that , “Gunter already back then was thinking about me as a man, at the pro level.”

I’m sure it was not easy to make such a drastic change, particularly at such a young age and when things are going quite well.

But Martin Blackman, the general manager of the U.S. Tennis Association’s player development program, said juniors and parents need to disregard the short-term temptation to win every match.

“You’re trying to create a complete player,” Blackman said. “If a player is one dimensional in their game when they’re a junior, at some point it’s going to limit them in their progression.”

It seems to have worked for Thiem, who won his first round match at Wimbledon, but lost yesterday in the second round. Despite the unexpected loss, Thiem seems to have the right skills, and just as important, the right mindset to compete and succeed at the highest level of the game.

He has the potential to be No. 1, and I am looking forward to watching his progress.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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