Examining the disputed absence of a French Open wildcard for retirement-bound Thiem

Wednesday, 15 May 2024 at 16:35
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Dominic Thiem was snubbed in his pursuit of a wildcard for the 2024 French Open with the Austrian as a result having to rely on late withdrawals or qualifying which given his current form, he isn't assured of in any manner. But for many, it was an injustice.
Thiem is in his final season on the professional tour with the Austrian set to hang up his racquet in Vienna in November. But despite being a two-time finalist and a player who in reality has brought a lot to the tournament over the years, he does not receive the rewards. But is it justified.
In a sense yes, in a sense no. Thiem may be a two-time finalist at Roland Garros, but for instance Simona Halep is a former champion and was not even given a qualifying wildcard. So it is very much rules or rules as far as the FFT are concerned. Their wildcards are only really given to non-French players through reciprocal agreements which in the women's draw for instance allowed Ajla Tomljanovic in.

Rules firmly in place for wildcards

It has long benefited players such as Alize´ Cornet who like Thiem will retire in 2024. The Frenchwoman has often been a real spoiler for the top names and in reality mainly got that opportunity due to the FFT having an agreement with Tennis Australia. So it is very much a rule for one would be a rule for another kind of argument. For instance if Thiem was given a wildcard, Halep would also have grounds to fight her case. Keeping it just to French and reciprocal keeps it fair also for the top names from that country. They battle all year to get a shot at Roland Garros with many of the picks to do with yearly leaderboards.
For instance Lois Boisson who was 23-1 this season got heartbreakingly injured at Trophee´ Clarins in Paris after being a shoe-in for a wildcard. The Frenchwoman has been utterly superb this season. But she led that leaderboard and was set to go to Roland Garros without a shadow of a doubt. It is a similar system in reality to Rome which saw mainly Italian players given wildcards.
Wimbledon even has a similar system with the wildcards being used often to keep players such as Harriet Dart, Heather Watson among others who have been relevant in the past playing in the tournament. As well as even Emma Raducanu during her breakout year. While there are exceptions to the rule, it is not one that was ever realistically going to benefit Dominic Thiem as heartbreaking as that is for the Austrian and his fans.
A tournament that even doesn't give out seeded status to Rafael Nadal isn't likely going to also give a perk to Dominic Thiem. But the argument is also there that he should've been given one. A player who is a US Open champion that enjoyed some of his best success in the country. He has been loved by the French people so ticks a box in that regard and also is revered as one of the best players of the modern era.
He has given many unforgettable moments that perhaps warrant his case. Especially given his recent form, he is unlikely to get through qualifying. But that case can also be used against him. Recently Madrid for instance were criticised for their handling of wildcards in a complete opposite to the Thiem situation.
Anyone who is involved with IMG including Raducanu and also Darwin Blanch, a young 16-year-old were handed spots in the draw. This though was heavily criticised. Blanch wasn't seen as ready. It stirred up a whole debate regarding wildcards. Rennae Stubbs sits on the otherside of the fence with players like Thiem and Halep rewarded for past success. Also though it is mainly there as a seat filling exercise and do no-name French players fill seats.?
thiem french open
Was Dominic Thiem wrongfully snubbed or was he just a subject of supposed injustice when rules were firmly in place?

Stirring up the wildcard debate

Potentially for their friends and families, but not on a huge scale. But also does a Grand Slam really need big name talent to bolster a tournament that all have to play anyway. It is one that sits under the spotlight again with Thiem. Overall, the feeling is mainly sentiment with the Austrian.
Like Raducanu, Wozniacki and Halep, the chances that he was ever going to get given a wildcard were very slim and wasn't something that he would hinge his hopes on when it comes to entering qualifying unlike some. He would've known the stakes. But it is more sad than anything else that he potentially won't get the Roland Garros send-off that he deserves. But that is merely part of the sport.
Rafael Nadal for instance could get injured tomorrow and never play again so not getting the send-off he deserves. It isn't a god-given right in sport and albeit he should get some semblance of a thanks, he isn't in the position of others to warrant such a farewell. So is it an injustice? Yes but also it is one that was only really brought to light when it didn't happen. Diego Schwartzman for instance too won't get one either. He he has also had success in Paris. In reality there will always be French players to take the spots. The argument will be that he didn't do enough in the rankings to get a spot in the main draw, no matter the reputation. But would Nadal have benefitted from a wildcard if he needed it? Probably so those FFT rules likely are subject to change player dependent. It just didn't depend on Thiem.
Thiem himself is retiring due to a wrist injury and will make his final bow at the Vienna Open in November. He said during 2023 that in 2024, if he couldn't increase his ranking he would be done with the sport. It has since not gone to plan with Thiem. First having to resort to Challenger tennis then losing to players outside the top 200. His wrist issues were seen as the reason behind this move. A popular figure and a real shame to see him go out as he has. But one that also will likely benefit from further wildcards on grass and also hard courts.

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