ATP Finals: Tsitsipas, Thiem to clash for title

Published by Tennismash / Reuters

Dominic Thiem (L) and Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrate their semifinal victories at the ATP Finals (Getty Images)
Dominic Thiem’s defeat of ATP Finals defending champ Alexander Zverev sets up a title clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas, who earlier beat Roger Federer.

Dominic Thiem set up a title decider against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Finals after beating Alexander Zverev in straight sets.

The Austrian continued his magnificent season, overcoming the tournament’s defending champion 7-5 6-3 in one hour and 34 minutes on Saturday night at London’s O2 Arena.

Earlier, Tsitsipas stunned favourite Roger Federer 6-3 6-4 to reach the final on his debut at the ATP Finals.

Thiem advanced to his seventh final of 2019, including his second straight on indoor hard courts after winning the recent ATP Vienna title.

He will shoot for his sixth title of the season — and the biggest of his career — on Sunday evening.

“It’s one of the best tournaments all year, one of the most prestigious tournaments all year, and I’m getting the chance to play the finals,” Thiem said on court.

“It’s unreal to me, and to beat the defending champion, a good friend, an unbelievable player, this is always a great achievement. And I’m very, very happy.

“I became especially in Vienna and now this week (a fan) of indoor faster surfaces (laughter).”

Indeed it was Thiem, largely known for his clay-court exploits, and not the reigning champion, who was more often the aggressor on the medium-fast, low-bouncing court at the O2.

The Austrian saved two break points earlier in the first set before earning two of his own in the 12th game when Zverev’s game broke down.

On the second of those, Zverev double faulted.

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Thiem held to love in the opening game of the second set, and by this point had won 11 of the past 13 points.

Zverev then settled to go game-for-game with the world No.5 but from 40-15 up in the sixth game he again unravelled, missing two overheads and later a volley to hand Thiem a decisive break.

Three games later, Thiem closed out victory with a forehand winner down the line.

“This is just a big, big dream coming true for me,” he said, before turning his attention to Tsitsipas.

“One-handed backhand finals I guess (laughter). I think we are both very offensive players, he’s very attractive to watch, I love to watch him. So I’m really looking forward to play.

“I’m so lucky to get another chance to play in front of this amazing atmosphere.

Tsitsipas too strong for Federer

Earlier on Saturday, Tsitsipas silenced the raucous Roger Federer fan club as he knocked the 20-time Grand Slam champion out of the ATP Finals.

Only the most one-eyed Federer followers could not have been impressed with the Tsitsipas’s victory, achieved with the kind of tennis they are used to seeing from their idol.

With his fearless, eye-pleasing groundstrokes, regular forays to the net and booming serves, the engaging 21-year-old certainly has much to applaud.

But he knows the Federer followers will be tough to win over. “I hope they like me when I play out on the court, because I feel like I have a lot of things to offer for tennis,” Tsitsipas said.

“And I would love to see one day potentially a fan base and people come to the court like they do for Roger, because it’s an army. And you need that. You need an army like this.

“I want to feel connected with people. I want to be known as a good tennis player because that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a good personality.”

The way Tsitsipas responded when put under intense pressure on Saturday was impressive.

He saved 11 of the 12 break points he faced and survived an epic 13-minute game when he served for the first set at 5-3, sealing it at the seventh time of asking.

It was his second victory over the Swiss in 2019 after also winning their fourth-round match at the Australian Open.

For Federer, it was a case of what may have been after two botched overheads in the same game cost him a break and his inability to take advantage of his openings.

“I think getting broken with missing two smashes in one game, that hasn’t happened in a long, long time or ever,” the 38-year-old said.

“I have to credit him for pushing me to not playing at the level I was hoping to today. He did come up with the goods when he had to, and he was better than me today.”

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