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Thiem avenges 2019 title-match loss with Nitto ATP Tennis Finals victory over Tsitsipas

Dominic Thiem of Austria reacts after winning the first set against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during their Nitto ATP tennis finals match at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 15 November 2020.

By Ricky Dimon

A competitive three-setter between Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas was the only similarity between Sunday’s showdown and last year’s head-to-head contest at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Last year’s was the final. This one was the first match of the tournament in round-robin competition. Last year’s had 20,000 fans in attendance. This one was played behind closed doors. Last year’s was won by Tsitsipas. This one went to Thiem.

The third-ranked Austrian exacted a measure of revenge for his heartbreaking defeat with a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 victory to kick off the London finale in style. Thiem struck nine aces compared to two double-faults while prevailing in two hours and 17 minutes.

Pehaps the biggest moment came in the first-set tiebreaker. Tsitsipas had leads of 4-1 and 5-3, but Thiem eventually pulled ahead 6-5 to earn a set point on the Greek’s serve. Tsitsipas took complete control of that point and should have put away an easy overhead, but a brain cramp let Thiem back in it and in the end the defending champion was forced into an error.

“That was the silliest thing that ever happened to me,” Tsitsipas said. “I had ball over the net, and I decided to play forehand instead of a smash. I don’t know what kind of decision was that, but it was very not sure enough. Didn’t take time; just rushed. Didn’t take time to think where I want to go and used my strongest shot, and he ended up passing me with a lob and I was in a defensive position afterwards.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece reacts during his two sets to one loss to Austria’s Dominic Thiem during the Nitto ATP tennis finals at the O2 Arena in London, Britain, 15 November 2020.

The 22-year-old battled back to force a third set, but Thiem broke serve right away in the decider and consolidated it through the finish line.

“Compared to last year, I think the level was higher last year,” the 27-year-old assessed. “We were both in great shape last year in the finals, wanting the title 100 percent. The atmosphere last year was insane at the finals.

“Today was a little bit different. There was a lot [about] the serve from both of us, only two breaks in the whole match. I think the conditions are pretty fast here. I’m super happy with my win. Every win against a top-10 player here at the finals is something special, and as well every win against Stefanos is something special because he’s such a great player and (has) won so many big titles already.”

Thiem will face Rafael Nadal in the winners’ match on Tuesday. Nadal kicked off his bid for a first-ever Nitto ATP Finals title by beating Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.