LONDON: Dominic Thiem became the first player in four years to reach back-to-back championship matches at the Nitto ATP Finals on Saturday, as he earned a milestone 7-5, 6-7(10), 7-6(5) victory against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first semifinal.
The 2019 runner-up failed to convert four match points in a dramatic second-set tie-break, but held his nerve to rally in a final-set tie-break against Djokovic at The O2 for the second straight year. Thiem's victory was his 300th at tour-level and his fifth against a World No. 1. The last player to reach consecutive finals at the season finale was Djokovic (2012-'16).
"It was for sure a mental battle. I got so tight in the second-set tie-break because to play these legends is always going to be something special," said Thiem in an on-court interview. "Playing for the final here at the Nitto ATP Finals is also something very special and I thought that after my first big title in New York, maybe I'm going to be a little bit more calm, but that was a mistake, I guess. I was just as tight and as nervous as before. It was so much on the edge that match, like every single match here. The best players in the world are facing off. So I'm just incredibly happy to be through and just [will] try to get ready for tomorrow."
Each set came down to just a few points and it was Thiem who claimed the biggest points in the decider. Thiem increased his aggression to win six consecutive points from 0/4 down in the final-set tie-break and converted his sixth match point with a powerful forehand approach shot. Thiem is only the second player in 2020 to win a tie-break against the World No. 1. Djokovic entered the third-set tie-break with a 15-1 tie-break record this season.
"After I fought so hard to get to the final in the group stage and as well now today. Of course I will try everything to win the title," said Thiem. "Anyway now we're going to have again a first-time winner, no matter what happens in the second semi-final. Both of them will fight 100 per cent today and as well tomorrow, but I'm looking forward a lot. It's going to be the last match of a very special, of a very tough year for everybody, I guess. We're going to try to put [on] a great show for everybody that is watching." Agencies
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