Agassi persistence can show Thiem way to top

Three decades ago a backline slugger with a "look-at-me" headband and blond tips departed another Grand Slam final despairing he might never hold a trophy aloft.

Andre Agassi had just lost his second consecutive French Open final, fearing all the talent in the world might not convert into Grand Slam glory.

Dominic Thiem ran into an old-fashioned Novak Djokovic rope-a-dope in a Melbourne Park final.

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Seemingly cruising in the fourth set as Djokovic bickered with umpires and cursed a failing body, he let his concentration waver for an instant.

As a result, all he has to show for his mantle as the heir apparent to the big three in tennis is a trio of honourable Grand Slam defeats.

Losing to Rafael Nadal on the clay of Roland Garros twice and Djokovic on what is effectively home turf is no shame, even given those circumstances.

Sporting blond tips, just like Thiem, Andre Agassi launched onto the scene, but struggled at the pointy end of grand slams early. Picture: Allsport UK
Sporting blond tips, just like Thiem, Andre Agassi launched onto the scene, but struggled at the pointy end of grand slams early. Picture: Allsport UK

Because, like Agassi, in those twin 1990-91 defeats before him, the weight of talent will surely translate into multiple Grand Slam titles in the near future.

He might not have Agassi's oozing charisma but he has the same stunning all-court game.

Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray both lost four Grand Slam titles before winning their first slam, while Goran Ivanisevic beat Patrick Rafter in the 2001 Wimbledon final after three major final losses.

The records of that trio will provide no comfort for Thiem when he wakes but surely he will eventually join them.

Thiem was adamant that when he does win his maiden major, he wants to do it when Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are all still at the top of their game.

"These guys brought tennis to a complete new level. They also brought me probably to a much better level," he said.

"It was amazing how the matches went this week. It's great tennis, it's a great show for everybody. Of course, it would be or it was easier for sure in a different era to win big titles. That's 100 per cent.

"But I'm happy I can compete with these guys on the best level. I really hope that I win my maiden slam when they're still around because it just counts more."

Thiem congratulates Djokovic on his incredible comeback win. Picture: AP
Thiem congratulates Djokovic on his incredible comeback win. Picture: AP

Minor detail only is the barrier to one of tennis' younger players overcoming the big three the 26-year-old said.

"It's only small details. In the last two finals - US Open and here - it was really close. It could have gone either way for Daniil (Medvedev) in th US Open and for me here. It takes nothing more than just little bit luck, little details there. Maybe if I convert the break point in the fourth set, maybe I'm sitting here as a winner.

"It just takes hard work. Me and also the other young players have the potential to win a slam. I played an unbelievable intense match against Rafa, such an intense match against Sascha (Zverev) in the semis. Today again, almost over four hours. I think that was very demanding.

"I just feel a lot of emptiness right now but that's it. I know the feeling. Already now I feel a little bit of motivation coming back for the next grand slam."


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