At his best, Dominic Thiem has proven a tremendous force on clay. But after winning just five games on Thursday at the Open Parc Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Lyon, the Austrian struggled to find a reason for his form.

“It was a huge disappointment just now. Just also a big, I would stay, step backwards after promising tournaments in Madrid and Rome. I don’t really know why,” Thiem admitted. “I was preparing well here, practising well and just didn’t find any rhythm, any strokes. Don’t really know what happened.

“But as I said, it’s just a huge step back. I was hoping to take the little positive signs from Madrid and Rome here, but it didn’t work out. I have to analyse [it] now and look [towards] Roland Garros.”

The World No. 4 took nearly two months off after losing in Dubai in March. Thiem competed well to make the Madrid semi-finals and dropped a physical slugfest against eventual semi-finalist Lorenzo Sonego in Rome, so he was expecting to improve even more in Lyon.

“It’s not good for the confidence. To be honest, the way I played today, I was expecting that more to come in Madrid because I hadn’t played for so long,” Thiem said. “But now I was back in the match rhythm and actually hoping for good tennis. I don’t know what to say or what to think. That’s why I need to analyse it and just need to work hard for Roland Garros and [I am] hoping for the best there.”

The two-time Roland Garros finalist said he might watch matches he played on clay two years ago to try to pick things up from when he was at top form.

“I was practising quite well the days I’ve been at home and the days before the match here, so it’s more the matches [I need to figure out],” Thiem said. “I need to find a way back somehow. The next match is already the first round at Roland Garros and until that day I need to hopefully sort it out.”

Thiem has quickly found his form before. At last year’s Western & Southern Open, which was held at Flushing Meadows, he only won three games in an opening-round loss against Filip Krajinovic. At the same site, the Austrian then won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open.

“I’m still [trying] to find the way I’m playing. I felt that I was on the right way in Madrid and Rome and the match against Sonego wasn’t bad at all. There were many long rallies,” Thiem said. “Today again I felt a little bit uncomfortable to play in these long rallies and rushing a bit [a few] of them. That’s how it is.”