November 15, 2020
Dominic Thiem avenged his defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s London final by finding an extra gear in the 2020 curtain-raiser.
Once more, the match went to three sets. But this time it was the Austrian who used his increased confidence to emerge as the winner.
This 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3 sizzler could have gone either way in key moments.
Tsitsipas will inevitably regret not being able to close out the first-set tie-break, having led 4-1 and 5-3.
Thiem fought back with some fine serves and greater aggression when it really mattered.
But he was only able to close out the breaker because Tsitsipas inexplicably squandered a simple chance to extend the drama.
Stefanos suddenly became tentative at the net with the whole court wide open. Ever the fighter, Thiem exploited his rival’s indecision to the full.
But it was a testament to the character of the younger man that he quickly put that wastefulness behind him.
Stefanos broke early in the second set and looked comfortable holding onto that advantage until the match was level.
But we have seen defiance before from Thiem, most recently when he won the US Open.
He digs deep and summons another level just when you think he might be overrun.
In this case he found nine winners in the first three games of the decider, taking them all with surprising ease.
To his credit, Tsitsipas fought hard to restore the balance. Indeed he could have broken with a backhand down the line.
When his effort failed to clear the net, Tsitsipas yelled in frustration. He must have suspected by then that it simply wasn’t to be his day.
Sure enough, Domi held his nerve to notch an important opening win in what promises to be an intense week of action.
A delighted Thiem said later: ‘It was a tough match, the conditions were fast and you can’t have a slow start here.
‘It’s much better to start with a win, as I realised last year. I’m very happy that I did it.
‘I’m also very grateful, along with all the other players, that events like this are still happening.’
The ATP Tour Finals are always a great way to end the season. But having no crowd has taken something away from London’s last big indoor event.
Thankfully, Wimbledon 2021 can look forward to welcoming spectators and enjoying a big-time tennis atmosphere again at last.
And there are three more big reasons why Wimbledon 2021 promises to be a more spectacular show.
Roger Federer will surely be there for one last tilt at the title. Andy Murray will also be desperate to appear at his home Slam one last time. And Serena Williams aims to grace the famous lawns where she enjoyed so much success.
We will enjoy every match this coming week in London, along with the rest of the tennis world.
But Wimbledon 2021 is the place to be. We can’t wait to be there for the big one.
How about you? Could you bear to miss Federer, Murray and Serena in what could be their final great show at the spiritual home of tennis?
We can help make sure you are there to feel the emotion and witness the history.