In the highly dramatic match, Thiem could not use four match balls in the second set. Nevertheless, he remained playful to himself, even turned a 0: 4 into a 6: 4 in the tie-break of the decisive third set and finally won.
In his twelfth duel with the Serbs, the 27-year-old from Lower Austria left the field as the winner for the fifth time overall, but also for the fifth time in the last seven duels. The US Open champion from Austria is the only player alongside Andy Murray (GBR) who has won at least five wins against all three tennis legends Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic. Against Federer it is 5: 2, against Nadal 6: 9, against the Serbs now 5: 7.
Thiem after crime in the London final
Dominic Thiem made it into the finals at the ATP Finals in London for the second time in a row. The Austrian defeated world number one Novak Djokovic after a thriller in three sets.
“A mental fight”
“It was a mental battle,” said the Austrian in his first statement on the pitch. “Playing against these legends is always something special, as is playing for the finals. It was very tight. The match was on a knife edge, the best in the world play here. I’m just happy to have progressed and try to be ready for tomorrow. “
Djokovic paid his opponent respect. “What he did in the tie-break at 4-0 was unreal,” said the Serb. “I don’t think I played badly. I’ve brought in all of my first serves. He just hit the balls and everything went in. What can you do there? ”Said Djokovic. “I just have to take off my hat and say: ‘Congratulations’.” Djokovic missed his sixth ATP Finals title, which would have drawn him level with record winner Roger Federer.
With the semi-final success, Thiem has meanwhile also secured 800 ATP counters and 861,000 US dollars (726,000 euros) gross prize money. The final is about another 500 points and an additional $ 550,000 for Thiem. However, Thiem will not achieve a further improvement in the ATP ranking even with a possible final success.
As with the defeat in the last group game on Thursday against Russian Andrej Rublew, Thiem came out of the starting blocks somewhat cautiously. The Lower Austrian, who had previously defeated Nadal and Stefanos Tsistipas in the “London 2020” group, needed a few minutes to raise his operating temperature. Thiem reacted to most of the rallies instead of acting.
Thiem came closer to fine-tuning in the sixth game, when he was able to turn a 0:30 deficit, also with the help of his good first serve, into a game win. However, Thiem could not convert a 30-0 lead on Djokovic’s serve into a break in the next game.
Thiem becomes more precise
Without a spectator, the game was noticeably calm in the first set. Both players acted in a focused manner, avoided antics or cheering gestures of any kind. Sometimes the Austrian struggled with unsuccessful strokes after well-played longer rallies, but the first set seemed to be heading for a tiebreaker.
But Thiem’s forehand balls became more precise and powerful and at 5: 5 he was able to use his first break ball when Djokovic did not bring a return over the net. Thiem then served calmly and with an ace he got the first set after 51 minutes.
World class players watch each other
The next break chance for Thiem was 2: 2 in the second set, but this time the Austrian hit the net and called himself, clearly audible over the space microphones in the empty O2 arena, “So stupid.” Djokovic didn’t let himself be twice ask and secured his point for a 3-2 lead.
The Serb, who scored few spectacular points, had changed his tactics a little in the second round and was now trying to keep Thiem busy with precise blows to the lines. But the world number three pulled through his game, once again proving that he has become a complete world class player in the last few months.
Four match balls not used
Until he suddenly found himself facing two set balls from Djokovic at 5: 6 15:40 after a little too much risk in the game. With good serves, his whip-like backhand and a lot of self-confidence, Thiem withdrew from the threatened loss of a set and made it into the tiebreak.
There Djokovic turned a 0: 2 into a 4: 2 and a true tie-break thriller developed. However, Thiem, who also produced a double fault, was unable to use four match balls, two of which were on his own serve. The second set went to the Serbian world number one after two hours with 12:10 in the tiebreaker. The Austrian lost the fruits of his success after a well-played second set.
Trend reversal at 0: 4 in the tie-break
The four match balls awarded did not, however, long gnaw the Austrian, who got the first game in the decisive third set with his own serve to zero. However, Djokovic Thiem was in no way inferior and always equalized sovereignly. In general, the Serb appeared unusually calm and collected.
Both players performed their services more or less safely. After 2:45 hours, the second tie-break of this wrestling at the highest tennis level had to bring the decision. The Austrian started that with a double fault and was quickly 0: 4 behind. But once again Thiem proved which maturation process he was going through last, never got nervous, believed in his strengths and scored six points in a row. Finally, he used his sixth match point to move into the final.
For the final of the tournament formerly known as the “Masters”, the third in the world rankings from Austria promises “Thiem tennis” in its purest form again: “I will try everything to win the title. We will definitely have a premier winner. It will be a tough, special match and we will try to put on a great show. “
ATP World Tour Finals in London
(Great Britain, $ 5.7 million, indoor, hard court)