But 24-year-old Thiem, with his blistering groundstrokes hit with equal force from his forehand or one-handed backhand, has been a firm fixture in the top ten for over a year, cementing his place at the fanciest dais in the biggest interview room.
I had several breathless moments seeing him glide ten feet on the fine, loose top layer of sand to execute flawless drop shots, followed by all-out sprints back to the baseline to return a lob that would have, for any other player, sailed over their head and out of reach.
Thiem is fully engaged with me, maintaining unblinking eye contact, but he doesn’t indulge in the verbal tics or body language most use to express active listening—he doesn’t nod his head in acknowledgment or smile or frown as he’s thinking of his answer—not that I feel he owes me or anyone else such a comfort.
Love him or hate him, Kyrgios’s openness gives fans and journalists alike a window into who he is—a quick-tempered, possibly overly analytical player who alienates some, but draws in more who identify and sympathize with his struggle to make peace with the life he’s chosen.
After losing in the first round to a competitor ranked more than 200 places below him, Kyrgios told journalists that he was “not dedicated to the game at all” and that he’d prepared for past matches by playing basketball and eating ice cream, a piece of news circulated ten times as much as all of Thiem's U.S. Open coverage combined.
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