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Thiem Returns To Nitto ATP Tennis Finals Championship Match After Outlasting Djokovic

Dominic Thiem streaked through seven of the last eight points edging Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(10), 7-6(5) to reach his second straight ATP Finals title match.

By Ricky Dimon

Another Novak Djokovic vs. Dominic Thiem showdown in London; another third-set tiebreaker; another classic.

Thiem, who upset Djokovic 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) during round-robin competition last year, also got the best of this thriller by prevailing 7-5, 6-7(10), 7-6(5) after two hours and 54 minutes in Saturday’s first semifinal.

The Austrian had chances to finish it in much swifter fashion. He squandered a break point midway through the second set by missing a routine forehand, but still managed to earn four match points in the ensuing tiebreaker. Djokovic saved all four, including the second on a Thiem double-fault, and eventually stole the set when his opponent netted a backhand at 9-10.

Following six mostly straightforward holds for each player, another ‘breaker had to decide the third. This one did not last near as long, but it was another up-and-down ride. Djokovic seemingly had victory in his grasp when he led 4-0 only to see Thiem reel off six points in a row. The top-ranked Serb fought off one more match point for 5-6 before Thiem finally got across the finish line by taking control of a rally and inducing an error with a strong approach shot.

“From 0-4 in the third-set tiebreak I went for every single shot and every single shot went in,” the reigning U.S. Open champion reflected. “I mean, it was amazing…. I’m just super happy that in such an important match like the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals it worked out like that.

“Today in the second-set tiebreak, I was mentally not that strong. I got so tight when I had two match points on my own serve. The first one was a double-fault. I was like so tight in my whole body. Then the second, as well. So it’s always so close, these matches, that at the end the one who was a little bit luckier ends up winning.”

“What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal,” Novak Djokovic said of Dominic Thiem.

“What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal,” Djokovic said. “I mean, I don’t think I played bad. Actually, I made all of my first serves–4-1, 4-2, 4-5, 4-6…I made all first serves. He just crushed the ball. Everything went in from both corners, and he played a couple of very short slices, angles.

“Yeah, I mean what can you do? I mean, I was in a driver’s position at 4-love. I thought I was very close to winning it; he just took it away from me. But he deserved it, because he just went for it and everything worked.”

Thiem’s reward is a second straight trip to the championship match inside the O2 Arena. He lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in…you guessed it…a third-set tiebreaker last fall.

Either Rafael Nadal or Daniil Medvedev will be Thiem’s opponent on Sunday evening. He should be confident against either one. The 27-year-old beat Medvedev in straight sets in the U.S. Open semifinals and he is now just the second player in history after Andy Murray to beat Djokovic, Nadal, and Roger Federer all at least five times.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.