London, Nov 21 (efe-epa).- Dominic Thiem overcame squandering four match points to Novak Djokovic in the second set here Saturday to win the third in a tie-break and deny the world No. 1 a chance to play for a sixth ATP Finals title.
The 27-year-old Austrian is headed to the championship match at London’s O2 Arena for the second straight year after besting the Serb 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5).
For Djokovic, 33, it marks a fifth year in succession when he has failed to equal Swiss great Roger Federer’s mark of six ATP Finals crowns.
Having claimed his first major title with a triumph at the US Open, Thiem, ranked third in the world, showed on Saturday that he has the mindset he needs to win big matches.
Djokovic came into the semifinal leading the head-to-head series with Thiem by seven matches to four, including their last previous contest, a five-set battle at this year’s Australian Open final.
What was billed as a clash of the titans did not disappoint.
At one point, the Serbian even applauded a particularly impressive shot by his opponent, though Djokovic’s mood darkened when Thiem broke his serve to go up 6-5 before taking the first set 7-5 with an ace.
The world No. 1 had Thiem against the ropes at 3-4 and 5-6 in the second set. The Austrian served his way out of trouble and forced a tie-break, but then failed to convert four match points, allowing Djokovic to level the clash at a set apiece.
The third set also went to a tie-break and Djokovic took a 4-0 led before Thiem came storming back to win six straight points and secure his spot in the championship round, where he will face the victor of Saturday’s second semifinal pitting Rafael Nadal against Daniil Medvedev.
Neither Nadal, Medvedev or Thiem – who lost last year’s final to Stefanos Tsitsipas – has ever hoisted the trophy at the ATP Finals.
“It was for sure a mental battle,” Thiem said on the court after beating Djokovic. “I got so tight in the second set tie-break. I thought that after my first big title in New York, maybe I’m going to be a little bit more calm. It was a mistake, I guess. I was just as tight and nervous as before.”
“Anyway now we’re going to have again a first-time winner, no matter what happens in the second semifinal,” the Austrian said.
Djokovic was full of praise for the man who beat him.
“He did everything right from 0/4 (in the third-set tie-break). I have to put my hats down and say, congratulations. I actually didn’t play bad any point after 4/0,” Djokovic said. “I did hit the ball, I was not pushing it, but he just smashed it and he just played great.” EFE