The tennis world has showered Dominic Thiem with praise after an incredibly classy runner-up speech after the Australian Open final.
After trading shots for five sets vying for the Australian Open title, Thiem and Novak Djokovic united to recognise the impact of the deadly bushfires on the tournament's host country.
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“We all saw, before the tournament, also during, what we're doing is by far - there are way more important things in life,” Thiem said after his five-set loss to Djokovic, now an eight-time champion at Melbourne Park.
“It's very tough what this beautiful country has been through, or still going through.
“The Australian Open has been a great distraction, but I still hope Australia and the people and the wildlife that were affected are recovering very soon.
“We hope a disaster like this will never happen again.
“I experienced such a huge support throughout these two weeks, thank you to everybody who has come to the arena.
“It is one of the best events in all of sport, it is an absolute pleasure to be here and I am looking forward to next year already.”
Thiem congratulated Djokovic and his team and paid a brilliant tribute to his conqueror.
“Huge congrats to Novak — it is an amazing achievement,” he said.
“You and two other guys have brought men’s tennis to a complete new level, and I am really proud and happy that I can compete in this time and this period of tennis.
“I fell a little bit short today, but I will hope that I can get through and ‘revenge’ it.”
Got to like Dominic Thiem, quite a player, humble and genuinely sincere in his classy runner up speech.— Mike Dickson (@Mike_Dickson_DM) February 2, 2020
Wow Dominic Thiem has truly stolen Australia’s hearts with this speech, I am a mess, what a sweet, sweet man— CHANEL (@nerdychanel) February 2, 2020
Imagine how GUTTED Dominic Thiem would be and yet how classy was his speech. Even had the awareness to mention the bushfires. Really hope he can win a major soon. More than paid his dues. #AusOpen— Emily (@Emilitaa23) February 2, 2020
Super classy speech from Thiem.— Carole Bouchard 💜💛 (@carole_bouchard) February 2, 2020
Thiem using his speech time to talk about the aus bushfires even tho he’s visibly upset from losing the match.. such a compassionate and caring man we don’t deserve him :’(— 🍋 (@dayssixs) February 2, 2020
Lovely runner-up speech by Dominic Thiem, thoughtful, heartfelt, and earnest as ever. He'll lift one of the big trophies soon. #AusOpen— Ana Mitrić (@ana_mitric) February 2, 2020
Utterly gutted for Thiem three grand slams and another L. And that was a heartfelt speech 🥺— Isyraf (@Isyraffitri) February 2, 2020
the way he looks down while saying his speech !!!! the way he makes sure that we remember whats truly happening in australia !!! DOMINIC THIEM, RUNNER UP OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN. pic.twitter.com/bPydQNPxyD— gabbie 👺 (@domizverev) February 2, 2020
wow that was such a great runner’s up speech from thiem what a guy 😭— Andre (@drebepetty) February 2, 2020
Djokovic mentioned the fires among “some devastating things that started 2020.”
“Huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world with people dying every day,” Djokovic said.
“Obviously, one person that I considered close in my life and was a legend to me — Kobe Bryant — passed away as well with his daughter.
“I would just like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever.
“Be with our families. Stay close to the people that love you, that care about you.
“Of course, we’re part of professional sport, we compete and we try our best, but there are more important things in life and it’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you.”
Thiem wants major win while Big Three play
After painful losses in three grand slam finals, the Austrian could be forgiven for hoping to soon see the back of the Big Three.
His loss on Sunday night followed two French Open defeats by clay court king Nadal.
But 26-year-old Thiem said it would mean much more to win a major while the ageing trio of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were still playing.
Thiem, who will overtake Russian Daniil Medvedev to become world No.4 on Monday, said he was happy to keep chasing the grand slam greats, who have won the last 13 major titles.
"I think it's pretty unique in the history of sports that you just need to look at the success that they had - what they're still having," said Thiem, who got some revenge by ousting Nadal in the quarter-finals.
"Of course, it would be easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, that's 100 per cent.
"You have to beat at least two of them to win a big title and almost all players fail to do that and that's what makes it so tough.
"But I'm happy I can compete with these guys on the best level and I really hope also that I win my maiden slam when they're still around because it just counts more."
The Melbourne Park loss meant Thiem joined a select company of misery with four players, led by Andy Murray, who have lost three grand slam finals before a breakthrough victory.
That includes Goran Ivanisevic and Murray's former coach Ivan Lendl.
Thiem said there's little he would change about the Djokovic match despite appearing in control after blitzing the third set in the 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 result.
After spending six more hours on court than Djokovic through the tournament, he said he was physically spent.
"In the last two sets, I definitely gave everything I had so I don't really regret anything," Thiem said.
"Maybe I could have converted the break point in the fourth set where I could have the lead 2-1 and I may be sitting here as a winner.
"Of course, there were some small mistakes here and there, but at the end was a super close five-setter."