Thiem beats Djokovic with storming finish to reach ATP Finals title decider
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Dominic Thiem returned from the defeat, defeating Novak Djokovic at Saturday's ATP final in a gripping round of 16 when he reached the final for the second time in a row.
The 27-year-old Austrian seemed to defeat when he was 4-0 behind in the third set, but stormed back and took a 7: 5: 6: 7 (10): 7: 6 (5) win in just under three Hours.
World number three Thiem was the better player in the first set and sealed him with an ace after breaking the serve 5: 5.
After an exciting tie-break in the second set, Thiem had four chances to take the win, but he had a mistake on a match point and Djokovic showed real strength to snap the set.
The serves dominated the playoff and when Thiem started the second tiebreaker of the day and then lost the next three points, the end seemed near.
Instead, the world number three roared back, won the next six points and set up two more match points with a searing backhand on the crosscourt, one of many he had unleashed during the duel.
Djokovic saved a fifth match point, but Thiem finally got the job done when he forced his opponent to float a defensive forehand over the baseline.
Thiem will try to end a breakthrough year in which he won his first Grand Slam title by winning the US Open against Rafa Nadal or Daniil Medvedev on Sunday, guaranteeing a first-time champion for the fifth time in a row.
"It was a mental battle, I got so tight in the second set," said Thiem, who avenged his defeat against Djokovic in this year's Australian Open final, in court.
"Playing these legends is always special and playing here is also special. I thought I would be calmer after winning the title in New York, but that was a mistake."
Djokovic looked a little flat at times, especially with his brand returns, but still looked like he'd pulled an unlikely victory out of the fire only to be ambushed.
"What he did in the 4-0 draw was unreal," Djokovic, who won the title in London in 2012/15, told reporters.
"I don't think I played badly, I made all my first serves; he just dropped the ball and everything went in. What can you do?"
Thiem, who clinched his 300th career tour victory, is now an important force and will try to be better than last year when he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Losing means Djokovic will have to wait after 12 years in London for the event to be relocated to Turin next year to try again to land Roger Federer's six titles by the end of the year.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon)
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