Dominic Thiem improved to 2-0 in the group stages of the ATP Finals — and qualified for the semifinals — thanks to a thrilling victory over world No.1 Novak Djokovic on Tuesday night in London.
In a battle full of momentum swings lasting two hours and 47 minutes, the Austrian beat Djokovic 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6(5).
Earlier on Tuesday, Roger Federer beat Matteo Berrettini 7-6(2) 6-3 to score his first win at the tournament, after losing in straight sets to Thiem in his first round-robin match.
With Federer and Djokovic both winning and losing one match at the season-ending event in 2019, their meeting on Thursday will serve as a blockbuster winner-takes-all encounter for a place in the semifinals.
Djokovic meets No. 3 @RogerFederer with SF spot on the line Thursday. He must win for chance to finish year as World No. 1.
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) November 12, 2019
Thiem struck 50 winners to Djokovic’s 27 in the match, his fourth victory in his previous five meetings with the Serb.
After taking the second set, Thiem went up a break early in the third, only for Djokovic to break back in the six game to level scores at 3-3.
Still, the Austrian continued to swing out aggressively.
He survived a tight 10th game where he came within two points of defeat to hold for 5-5, and in the 11th game — a disastrous one for the world No.1 — Thiem broke Djokovic to love, earning a 6-5 lead and the chance to serve for the match.
His game then disintegrated; he failed to land a first serve, won just one point in dropping serve, and fell behind 1-4 in the tiebreak after botching two volleys either side of a double fault.
Djokovic had won eight of the last 10 points, but he couldn’t close out the match.
Thiem rediscovered his game and reeled off five straight points to earn two match points, and two points later, extracted an error from Djokovic to win.
Dominic Thiem vs The Big Three
Versus Djokovic: 4-6 (has won 4 of the last 5)
Versus Nadal: 4-9 (all four wins on clay in best-of-3)
Versus Federer: 5-2 (3-0 in 2019)
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) November 12, 2019
“This was one of these very special matches what I practised all my life for, what I practised all my childhood for,” Thiem said on court.
“A really epic one in front of an amazing atmosphere, beating a real legend of our game. So I couldn’t be happier.
“Also I qualified for the semifinals, which is the best (smiling).”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) November 12, 2019
Roger Federer kept his hopes for a semifinal place alive, responding to his loss to Thiem in emphatic fashion on Tuesday.
Berrettini was also coming off a heavy defeat by Djokovic in his first appearance at the event, and the 23-year-old showed why he has made such an impact this year as he pushed Federer hard in the opening set.
He saved a set point at 5-6 but Federer squeezed the accelerator to win 10 of 11 points as he cruised through the tiebreak and broke to love at the start of the second.
Berrettini, the first Italian to qualify for the tournament since 1978, had three break points in the eighth game but Federer served his way out of trouble and the 38-year-old Swiss then broke to claim victory.
Incredibly, Federer is now 17-0 in second round-robin matches at the tournament.
Only once in his previous 16 appearances at the year-ender has Federer failed to survive the group stage, in 2008.
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