Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will go head to head tomorrow to decide which of the two takes part in the semi-finals of tennis’ prestigious end-of-season shoot-out at the O2 Arena.
It will give lucky ticket holders the opportunity to witness a rerun of this summer’s astonishing Wimbledon final, which was won by the Serb in an epic five setter which became the longest final in the tournament’s history.
Both were expected to make it out of the group before the competition got under way on Sunday but both succumbed to the brilliant go-for-broke approach of Dominic Thiem.
The Austrian defeated Federer in straight sets on Sunday, then shocked the Wimbledon champion last night in the best game of the week so far, by a country mile.
Thiem’s bold approach, using fearsome backhands and whippy forehands – so reminiscent in style to Rafael Nadal’s – brought about as many unforced errors as outright winners, but his fearless tactics thrilled a captivated audience, which quickly got behind the 26-year-old.
After being broken in the first set he hit back immediately, taking Djokovic to love to the Serb’s own service game and he was perhaps unlucky to be edged out 7-5 in the tie-break.
Undaunted, he broke serve early in the second set to race into a 3-0 lead and held on comfortably to take the match to a deciding set, that went all the way, delaying the homeward journey for an enthralled crowd until nearly 11pm.
Thiem broke serve in the opening game in the third set, but was pegged back to 3-3 and then appeared to have got into a winning position again, breaking for 6-5 with his serve to come. But the world number two broke back to take it to the final set tie-break.
When Djokovic broke twice to take a 3-0 lead, the game finally looked up, but Thiem clawed his way back to seal a famous victory.
“This was a very special match, what I practised all my life for,” Thiem said. “An epic one in front of an amazing crowd and beating a legend of our game.
“I stayed in the match. It is special to come back from a set down. I stayed offensive all the time, even when it didn’t always work out. I’m proud to reach my goal of the semi-finals.
“I didn’t think everything was bad in that first match,” federer said of his own defeat to Thiem earlier in the week. “I was ready and prepared today and that’s what matters the most.”
Today, in the other group, first round losers Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev meet in the afternoon match with opening match winners Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zvererv meeting tonight.
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