November 21, 2020
Dominic Thiem has reached the ATP final after an amazing turnaround in the third-set tie-break against the world’s best player.
Novak Djokovic looked to have won this gruelling war of attrition after saving five match points.
But he knows more than anyone, it ain’t over till it’s over. And that’s just the thing.
Thiem was more like Djokovic than Novak himself in this unforgettable clash.
Just like Djokovic, Domi refused to give up. Just like Novak, he showed impossible athleticism in defence.
And just like the Serb usually does, the Austrian showed the unparalleled mental strength of a man who is fast becoming an habitual winner.
That’s not to say that Domi doesn’t suffer from nerves and setbacks. He admitted as much after this classic. He is only human.
The point is this: Thiem now finds a way to bounce back in the face of extreme adversity.
This extraordinary 7-5, 6-7 (10-12), 7-6 (7-5) triumph was Thiem’s 300th career victory. What a way to reach the milestone!
Thiem said: ‘It was a mental battle for sure. I got so tight in the second-set tie-break because playing for a final against a legend is so special.
‘I thought I had overcome the nerves when I won my first Grand Slam. But I was just as tight and nervous as before.
‘I’m just incredibly happy to be through and now I’ll try to get ready for tomorrow. We’ll have a first-time winner whatever happens. We’ll try to put on great show.’
Either Rafael Nadal or Daniil Medvedev will be his fellow finalist indoors.
And we can’t wait for Thiem to show us his extraordinary talents at Wimbledon 2021 as well!
Even Djokovic said recently that Thiem is now capable of winning trophies on every kind if surface.
The man who started out looking like a clay-court specialist has shown his skills on hard courts more than once this year.
The last remaining surface for the new superstar to dominate is grass. The All England Club beckons.
We feel confident that Thiem is more than ready to meet the challenge and make his mark at Wimbledon 2021.
The first set on the other side of London was an even affair for most of its duration. We knew there wouldn’t be much to choose between these two masters of their art.
Djokovic was just two points from taking the first set 6-4 but Thiem held firm.
And it was the Austrian who earned the first break point with a sizzling forehand.
Desperate defence from Thiem almost seemed to take a leaf out of Novak’s book.
But when Djokovic needed to angle a cross-court volley from low around his ankles, he only found the net.
Suddenly Dominic was serving for the first set. And it was no more than he deserved after a miraculous lob had brought applause even from Novak.
Thiem held his nerve to close out the opener with an ace.
But a single-handed backhand down the line was what had brought the loudest gasps of admiration from the handful of onlookers moments earlier.
The US Open champion had drawn first blood against the Wimbledon champion and world number one.
Somehow it looked as though Thiem wanted it more. Maybe in the second set he wanted it too much.
Domi had a great chance to break at 2-2 in the second set but clipped his forehand into the net.
Understandably, he remonstrated with himself as the big chance to hit the home straight went begging.
Novak thought he had broken to go 5-3 ahead but his “winner” was belatedly called out. Instead Thiem held with another stunning single-handed backhand.
Who would crack first? It looked like Dominic. He double-faulted at 5-6, then he couldn’t cope with Djokovic suddenly discovering how to return his first serve in the same game.
Novak had two set points but Domi saved both of them. We were into a tie-break.
Thiem had the early mini-break but then miss-hit a backhand. Djokovic was back into the fight and grabbed four straight points.
He was looking slightly the more relaxed of the two players, as he had all second set in truth.
But Thiem is made of strong psychological stuff and battled back to 4-4. This was going to be a nerve-jangling breaker all the way.
Dominic aced his more illustrious adversary to bring up match point. Djokovic saved it by serving out wide.
But Thiem found a wonderful cross-court forehand to earn a second match point at 7-6, this time on serve.
Amazingly he double-faulted just at the worst possible moment. And when his next backhand hit the net, it was Novak’s turn to have a set point. He couldn’t close out either.
Thiem earned a third match point with a booming forehand. Once more the chance slipped away under sustained Djokovic pressure. By now it was 9-9.
The best player in the world dragged a simple forehand wide to miss his next opportunity.
A superlative smash brought Thiem match point number four. That one Djokovic saved with the precision of a true great. His forehand struck the line.
Thiem finally lost patience and wilted. By standing his ground, Novak closed out a memorable breaker 12-10 and forced a decider.
Perhaps predictably, the final set went to a tie-break too. There was no less drama this time around.
Thiem began with a double fault and quickly fell 0-4 behind. Incredibly, he roared back to 5-4 with an ace. More match points came through a stunning, unstoppable Domi backhand.
Djokovic saved a fifth match point in all with a ace of his own.
But he couldn’t save the sixth. Thiem breathed a sigh of relief and looked to the heavens.
What superb entertainment! And this last ATP Finals in London still isn’t over.
By the end of Sunday, however, we’ll be looking forward to the return of these tennis giants for Wimbeldon 2021. Not long now!