Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Austria has only produced two top-10 players on the ATP World Tour, but that could change within the next year.
Dominic Thiem, appropriately nicknamed "Dominator," is ranked 99th in the world right now, but the Wiener Neustadt native is the youngest player in the top 100 and has his sights set on joining tennis' elite sooner rather than later.
The 6-foot-1 Thiem is a talented 20-year-old who can do just about anything on a tennis court, including one of my favorite things, scalding a sweet one- handed backhand. His favorite shots, however, are a big forehand and a big serve.
Thiem started playing tennis at age 6 and grew up on tennis courts, since both of his parents, Wolfgang and Karin, are professional tennis coaches.
Coached by Gunter Bresnik, who once coached the legendary Boris Becker, Thiem turned pro in 2012 and has shown steady if not spectacular improvement since then. On his serve, Thiem, like Becker, has that brief rocking motion, followed by a pause and a bending of the knees before springing into a big serve that is both flat and powerful.
Sure, Thiem is only 2-3 in 2014, but trust me, the promise is there. Ask anybody who follows the tour and he or she will tell you the same thing.
Last week in Rotterdam, Thiem surprised Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen in the first round before losing a tough three-setter against former world No. 2 and reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray.
Last year, Dominator rose from No. 304 in the world all the way up to a year-end No. 121 spot, thanks to two home-soil quarterfinal runs in Kitzbuhel and Vienna, and a pair of Challenger Tour titles. He's currently the second- highest ranked player from Austria behind one of his childhood idols, Jurgen Melzer (37th).
The former world No. 2 junior Thiem also has benefited from regular practice with Latvian star Ernests Gulbis, who is currently ranked 23rd in the world and also coached by (you guessed it) Gunter Bresnik.
The only Austrian men to crack the world top 10 in tennis to this point have been a pair of left-handers -- former world No. 1 stud Thomas Muster and Melzer -- but don't be surprised if Thiem joins that short list as soon as next year.