LONDON — Dominic Thiem thought successful his first Grand Slam title on the US 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 fallacious that notion was.
Nonetheless, 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 by way of 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5) after trailing 4-Zero within the concluding tiebreaker.
“What he did from 0-Four within the third-set tiebreaker was simply unreal,” mentioned Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion. “I do not assume I performed unhealthy. … He simply crushed the ball and every little thing went in.” When it ended with Djokovic crusing a forehand lengthy, Thiem dropped his racket and coated his face along with his fingers.
Thiem might have closed issues greater than an hour earlier. However within the earlier tiebreaker, Thiem acknowledged, “I used to be mentally not that robust.”
His 300th profession match win put him within the closing of the season-ending event for the second straight yr; he was the runner-up to Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019.
No. 2 Rafael Nadal was scheduled to face No. 4 Daniil Medvedev within the second semifinal. Not one of the final three males within the discipline has received the event, that means there might be a sixth completely different champion over the previous six years, the longest such stretch since 1974-79.
It is the primary time since 2004 that the highest 4 gamers within the rankings crammed the 4 semifinal slots for the ATP Finals. This yr’s group is sort of a quartet: They received the previous 10 Grand Slam titles and the previous 9 Masters 1000 trophies.
Djokovic, already assured of ending the yr ranked No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time, was attempting to match Roger Federer‘s mark of six ATP Finals trophies.
In Saturday’s rematch of February’s Australian Open closing, through which Djokovic beat Thiem in 5 units, there have been loads of lengthy baseline exchanges on the indoor exhausting 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 in opposition to supreme returner Djokovic. And whereas Thiem managed to provide solely a pair of break factors, he used a kind of to take a 6-5 lead within the opening set.
Within the second, Thiem’s ace put him forward 6-5 within the tiebreaker, one level from victory.
However Djokovic saved that preliminary probability with a 127 mph service winner. Thiem’s subsequent alternative to win got here at 7-6, however he double-faulted.
“I used to be, like, so tight in my complete physique,” Thiem mentioned. The third was at 9-8, when he pushed a down-the-line forehand large. 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 lengthen the match.
Thiem regrouped, although, to turn out to be solely the second man with not less than 5 victories every in opposition to the Large Three of Djokovic (5-7 profession mark), Federer (5-2) and Nadal (6-9). Andy Murray is the opposite.
“That’s tremendous particular to me,” Thiem mentioned. “Each single match in opposition to them is a big privilege. It is an enormous alternative to study. For those who beat these guys, it provides you an enormous enhance of confidence.”