Thiem surprised many on Tuesday at a press conference in Schörfling am Attersee, because he admitted that this season might be the last one for him. He has struggled to get back into the Top 50 for almost two years now, and he needs to get back there to play the biggest events without having to go through the qualifying.
The failure to get there weighs hard on Thiem, who didn't have a great time in Australia either. He admitted that if he doesn't get it, it might be it for him because he's not playing tennis to be ranked around 100th.
In the same press conference, the Austrian revealed his plan to get back there: to gather some points on the Challenger Tour. Instead of traveling to the United States to play the Sunshine Double, Indian Wells, and Miami Open, Thiem will stay in Europe and play three Challengers on clay.
The reason is simple: he has no points to defend until Monte-Carlo Masters, and gathering points will get him closer to his Top 50 goal. The likelihood of doing that is higher on clay in Europe than on hard courts in the United States, so that's the plan.
"Szekesfehervar, Zadar, and Napoli. Then, it can soon move towards the top 70, 60 – and I can also plan better because the current ranking where I stand is challenging. Every 250 series tournament is a nail-biter."
The plan makes perfect sense on paper, but if he loses early at all three events, it would be a disaster. It only works if he actually plays well, but that's the part he can control.
The opposition will certainly be weaker than in Indian Wells and Miami, but the Challenger Tour is not easy either.