World No. 5 Dominic Thiem may not have brought his best stuff on Saturday but found a way to stick around against Karen Khachanov in the China Open semifinals. Down for most of the match, Thiem rallied for a 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory and in turn, became the fifth player to clinch a place at the ATP Finals in London—his fourth consecutive qualification.
Coming into the clash, the two had split their two prior meetings. Khachanov won their encounter on his way to the Paris-Bercy title last November and Thiem exacted revenge this year en route to his second successive French Open final.
Thiem had issues with finishing off points he did well to construct, with his closing volley and forehand drop shot doing him in on multiple occasions. Khachanov was dialed in on return, breaking the Austrian five times over the first 80 minutes to reach 5-3 in the second set. He fell behind 0-40 when serving for the match and Thiem broke to extend the battle.
After dropping the second set tiebreaker, where he was two points from reaching the finish line, Khachanov opened the decider with a break. Thiem, who expressed his frustrations throughout the match, continued to play with belief in his shot-making and once again, erased the deficit. He grew in confidence on serve in the latter stages, shifting pressure to the Russian. Thiem would break to 15 to close out the hard-fought victory after two hours and 41 minutes.
The 26-year-old Thiem is through to his fifth final of the year, having triumphed at Indian Wells, Barcelona and Kitzbuhel. He will take on Stefanos Tsitsipas for the trophy on Sunday.
In a matchup between the two players ranked directly below Thiem, No. 7 Tsitsipas defeated No. 6 Alexander Zverev, 7-6 (6), 6-4. The Greek wiped away three set points in the first set tiebreaker, and thwarted a late push by the 2018 ATP Finals champion in the second set to finish the task at hand in one hour and 51 minutes.
After losing their first meeting, Tsitsipas has now taken three in a row over the German. He edged Zverev earlier this season in the Madrid quarterfinals, before upsetting Rafael Nadal to reach the final, his last title match appearance. Entering this week, Tsitsipas was on a five-match losing streak in tournament play and will look to even his head-to-head series with Thiem at three wins apiece.