Dominic Thiem thought successful his first Grand Slam title on the U.S. Open would make him calmer within the tensest moments of the largest matches. He realized in his ATP Finals showdown with No. 1 Novak Djokovic how incorrect that notion was.
Still, after frittering away 4 match factors of their semifinal Saturday as a result of he was “tight and nervous” throughout a second-set tiebreaker, Thiem gathered himself. He ultimately reeled off seven of the match’s final eight factors to get to the ultimate of the season-ending championship.
The No. 3-ranked Thiem ended Djokovic’s bid for a record-tying sixth ATP Finals title, coming via 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5) after trailing 4-Zero within the concluding tiebreaker in London, England.
“What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal,” mentioned Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion. “I don’t think I played bad. … He just crushed the ball and everything went in.”
When it ended with Djokovic crusing a forehand lengthy, Thiem dropped his racket and coated his face together with his arms.
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Thiem may have closed issues greater than an hour earlier. But within the earlier tiebreaker, Thiem acknowledged, “I was mentally not that strong.”
His 300th profession match win put him within the ultimate of the season-ending event for the second straight yr; he was the runner-up to Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019.
sixth totally different champ in 6 years
No. 2 Rafael Nadal was scheduled to face No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s second semifinal. The ultimate is Sunday. None of the final three males within the subject has gained the event, that means there might be a sixth totally different champion over the previous six years, the longest such stretch since 1974-79.
It’s the primary time since 2004 — when Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin did it — that the highest 4 gamers within the rankings crammed the 4 semifinal slots for the ATP Finals.
This yr’s group is kind of a quartet: They mixed to win the previous 10 Grand Slam males’s singles titles and the final 9 Masters 1000 trophies.
Djokovic, already assured of ending the yr ranked No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time, was attempting to match Federer’s mark of six ATP Finals trophies. A title additionally would have made Djokovic, at 33, the oldest champion in event historical past; Federer was 30 in 2011.
WATCH | Novak Djokovic secures semifinal berth:
In Saturday’s rematch of February’s Australian Open ultimate, through which Djokovic beat Thiem in 5 units, there have been loads of lengthy baseline exchanges on the indoor laborious court docket — the place issues had been quiet as a result of spectators had been banned because of the coronavirus pandemic — and few break possibilities for both participant.
Thiem confronted three break factors and saved all of them, fairly an achievement towards supreme returner Djokovic. And whereas Thiem managed to provide solely a pair of break factors, he used a type of to take a 6-5 lead within the opening set.
In the second, Thiem’s ace put him forward 6-5 within the tiebreaker, one level from victory.
3-point run to steal set
But Djokovic saved that preliminary probability with a 204-kilometre per hour service winner. Thiem’s subsequent alternative to win got here at 7-6, however he double-faulted.
“I was, like, so tight in my whole body,” Thiem mentioned.
The third was at 9-8, when he pushed a down-the-line forehand vast. At 10-9, Djokovic erased No. Four with a forehand that landed proper on a line.
That started a three-point run by Djokovic to steal the set and delay the match. He wanted 4 set factors in all to take action, however got here via when Thiem netted a backhand.
Thiem regrouped, although, to turn out to be solely the second man with at the least 5 victories every towards the Big Three of Djokovic (5-7 profession mark), Federer (5-2) and Nadal (6-9). Andy Murray is the opposite.
“That is super special to me,” Thiem mentioned. “Every single match against them is a huge privilege. It’s a huge opportunity to learn. If you beat these guys, it gives you a huge boost of confidence.”