Austrian star Dominic Thiem produced a scintillating display of attacking tennis to beat World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, leaving the Serbian facing a showdown against Roger Federer.
In the standout match so far at London’s O2 Arena, the Austrian fifth seed took the fight to Djokovic, recovering from losing the first set to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)
Earlier, Federer put himself back into the mix at the end-of-season event with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win against Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in their round-robin clash.
Federer and Djokovic will face off on Thursday in a repeat of the Wimbledon final to determine who else will progress from Group Bjorn Borg.
Thiem was forced to play high-stakes tennis against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, taking the breath away with some of his inside-out forehands and single-handed backhands
Forced to play on the limit, he hit 50 winners compared to Djokovic’s tally of 27 but also racked up 44 unforced errors.
In a captivating first set lasting more than an hour, Djokovic, last year’s beaten finalist, drew first blood, breaking in the fourth game, but Thiem responded immediately, breaking back with a rasping backhand down the line.
Neither player managed to force another break and the set went to a tie-break, which Djokovic, a five-time ATP Finals champion, edged 7-5.
Undaunted, Thiem broke his opponent at the first opportunity in the second set and, with Djokovic’s error count climbing, went on to level the match.
Thiem then broke in the first game of the deciding set and stayed strong to hold under severe pressure.
The Austrian was again under pressure on his own serve in the sixth game and Djokovic broke back when Thiem went long with a backhand.
Thiem successfully challenged at 30-30 in the 10th game after his forehand was ruled out, preventing a match point for Djokovic and he toughed it out to level at 5-5.
He then broke Djokovic to love to earn a chance to serve for the match but stumbled and the decider went to a tie-break.
Thiem slipped to 4-1 down but recovered to win it on his second match point when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.
“I practised all my life, all my childhood for this,” said Thiem. “It was incredible.”
“Novak was in great shape and I had to do something special,” he added.