Tennis Star Dominic Thiem on What it Takes to Beat Novak Djokovic

Dominic Thiem plays at the ATP Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell Conde de Godo tournament on April 25, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain
Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer: Tennis’ top three are household names. But Dominic Thiem—the young Austrian kicking at their heels currently ranked No. 4 in the world—is another name to know.

Considered one of the fittest players on the tour, Thiem has most everything ‘the big three’ have: a dedication to exercise, a killer on-the-court game (he’s beaten Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer), and multi-million dollar sponsorships. But there’s one thing he’s still missing: a Grand Slam win.

Next week, he’ll continue to chase his first at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York.

Recently, Men’s Journal had the chance to catch up with the 25-year-old. Here, how he stays fit, the food he craves most, and what it’ll take to walk away with the sport’s biggest prize.

Many consider you to be one of the most athletic guys on the ATP tour. What does your fitness routine look like?

I try to do something every day. When there are no tournaments, I do a pretty tough program—even twice a day. When I’m in the tournament, I reduce it a little bit, but still, I try to do something every day. My routine is very intense, but it’s normal exercises that many people probably do, too: a lot of strength work, speed work, and a little bit of endurance with lots of core work. I like crunches and Supermans. I really love to do core exercises because they don’t only make you fit, they also make you look good.

You love soccer, too, right?

I love it, yeah. In the same way tennis has eye-hand coordination, there’s eye-foot coordination. You get a feeling of the ball and everything. I find it’s a very good thing to do in my downtime.

How do you recover?

Lots of stretching, some biking, and an ice bath for six to eight minutes.

What’s your favorite meal to either cook or eat in general?

A good pasta in Italy—aglio e olio. I love very spicy food. It’s always a great time of the year when I’m in Italy and I can enjoy that.

What’s your favorite drink?

I almost never drink. Most of the time I drink water and I really love fresh fruit juices, like apple juice.

Favorite place to travel?

New York. The energy of the city is amazing, and the U.S. Open is one of my favorite tournaments, so it’s a great combination.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Always keep going. Keep momentum, no matter what’s happening. Always keep working hard and you’ll reach your goals. A good friend of mine gave me that advice many years ago.

What does it take to beat a player like Federer, Nadal, or Novak?

It takes everything. It takes, of course, good tennis. You have to keep up with them tennis-wise, but also fitness-wise. They’re the three best players of all time, but they’re also three of probably the fittest players of all time.

So consistency is big?

Yeah. If you work hard every day, it’s going to pay off at one point.

So what will it take to get your first Grand Slam win?

There’s always technique, and to improve my game, and to improve my fitness, but I think you need a little portion of luck also.

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