Dominic Thiem aims to continue great 2018 form at Mubadala World Tennis Championship
The Austrian will play Karen Khachanov on Thursday in his opening match at the event in Abu Dhabi
Dominic Thiem is hoping he can carry an encouraging end to 2018 into the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) as he looks to win his first grand slam title in 2019.
The Austrian reached his first grand slam final at the French Open in June and also reached the US Open quarter-finals for the first time, losing a five-set epic to Rafael Nadal in an encounter that lasted close to five hours.
As he prepares for his MWTC opener against Karen Khachanov on Thursday at the International Tennis Centre at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, the Austrian said of his year: "It was one of my best years so far. I was in my first grand slam final. I made the most points of all my years on the ATP Tour and I won three titles on different surfaces, which was good."
But, despite the fact Roland Garros was the scene of his first appearance at a major final, losing in straight sets to Nadal, it was his run to the last eight in New York in September that he felt was his big breakthrough moment.
Mubadala World Tennis Championship: Complete player guide as Djokovic and Co head to Abu Dhabi
The Serena Williams interview: Taking on older sister Venus is 'the ultimate rivalry' for the champion
The 25 year old had been troubled by illness and lack of time on court in the build up, and he said: "I had come into the US Open with a really bad preparation, but I was raising my level from game to game. Then in the quarter-finals against Rafa was one of the best matches I have ever played."
It was the first time Thiem had been beyond the last 16 in a grand slam tournament that was not on clay, and he gave Nadal, the then world No 1, a real scare before losing a thriller 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.
"To me, personally, it was really important because I saw I can play with the best players in the world over five hours and also on a different surface to clay," he added.
This is Thiem's second appearance at the MWTC, having lost to eventual champion Kevin Anderson in the semi-finals 12 months ago.
On how it will help him in his quest to move up the rankings and get that first major title, he explained: "After not competing for one-and-a-half months, Abu Dhabi helps a lot.
"It is not an exhibition at all, it is a real tournament and all the players who are there really want to win it. It is the start of the season for me and it really is a good way of getting some time on court against good opposition. You get at least two matches in and it is really useful."
Thiem added he had been impressed with the MWTC as an event, and it had been an easy decision for him to return for a second time.
"The tournament was great," he said. "It was organised like a very good ATP event.
"There was a lot of things to do there away from tennis, and I am looking forward to being back there again."
Thiem lost to Khachanov at the Paris Masters in November, and he is aiming to avenge that loss when they meet in their quarter-final tie on Thursday, which is scheduled to start at 6pm following the opening match between Anderson and Hyeon Chung at 4pm.
"He is a huge player with a big serve and he is really good from the baseline, and I think he is now No 11 so it is not really a question that he will be top 10 soon," he said of the 22 year old. "I think it is going to be a nice match to watch for everybody."
Updated: December 25, 2018 09:26 AM