'Tight and nervous,' Thiem tops No. 1 Djokovic at ATP Finals
LONDON (AP) - Dominic Thiem thought his first Grand Slam title at the US Open would put him at ease during the toughest moments of the biggest games. He realized in his ATP final showdown with Novak Djokovic, No. 1, how wrong this idea was.
After Thiem had lost four match balls in the semifinals on Saturday because he was "tense and nervous" during a tiebreaker in the second set, he rallied. He eventually picked up seven of the game's last eight points to advance to the championship final at the end of the season.
Thiem in third place ended Djokovic's application for a record-breaking sixth ATP final title with 7: 5, 6: 7 (10), 7: 6 (5) after a 4: 0 deficit in the final tiebreaker.
"What he did in the third set from 0-4 in the tiebreaker in the third set was just unreal," said Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion. '' I don't think I played badly. ... He just crushed the ball and everything went in. ''
When it ended with Djokovic sailing a forehand, Thiem dropped his bat and covered his face with his hands.
Thiem could have closed more than an hour earlier. But in the earlier tiebreaker Thiem admitted: "I wasn't that strong mentally."
His 300th career win brought him into the final of the tournament at the end of the season for the second time in a row. He was runner-up by Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019.
No. 2 Rafael Nadal was supposed to play against No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in the second semi-final. None of the last three men in the field have won the tournament, which means there will be a sixth other champion in the past six years, the longest of these runs since 1974/79.
It is the first time since 2004 that the four best players in the ranking have occupied the four semi-finals for the ATP final. This year's group is quite a quartet: They have won the last 10 Grand Slam titles and the last nine Masters 1000 trophies.
Djokovic, who was already assured of finishing the year in first place for the sixth time, tried to hit Roger Federer's mark of six ATP final trophies.
During the rematch on Saturday at the Australian Open final in February, in which Djokovic defeated Thiem in five sets, there were many long baseline exchanges on the hard court in the hall - where it was quiet because the spectators were banned due to the coronavirus pandemic - and only a few break chances for each player.
Thiem faced three breakpoints and saved them all, quite a success against top returnees Djokovic. And while Thiem could only produce two breakpoints, he used one of them to get a 6-5 lead in the opening set.
In the second round, Thiem's ass gave him a 6: 5 lead in the tiebreaker, one point before the win.
But Djokovic saved that initial chance with a 127 mph service winner. Thiem's next chance to win came 7-6, but he made a double mistake.
I was so tight all over my body, said Thiem.
The third was at 9-8 when he pushed a forehand far down. At 10-9, Djokovic No. 4 put out with a forehand that landed directly on a line.
This started a three-point run by Djokovic to steal the set and extend the match.
However, Thiem regrouped and became only the second man with at least five wins each against the Big Three from Djokovic (5-7 career brand), Federer (5-2) and Nadal (6-9). Andy Murray is the other.
"This is something very special for me," said Thiem. '' Every single game against them is a great privilege. It's a great opportunity to learn. If you beat these guys it will give you a huge confidence boost. ''
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