Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev were giant-killers in their round-robin groups this week, taking out every member of the Big Three between them. On Saturday, the tournament will come to an end for one of them, as the two square off in the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Thiem had a phenomenal start to his campaign, taking out Roger Federer in his first round-robin match, 7-5, 7-5, and then Novak Djokovic two days later, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (5). Against the incoming Paris champion, Thiem fought back from 4-1 down in the third set tiebreaker to win what he stated was one of his best performances to date.
“This was one of these special matches, what I’ve practiced all my life for, all my childhood for,” he said afterwards. “It was an unbelievable match and one I’ll never forget. I had to do something special. It was maybe the best match I’ve ever played.”
Thiem secured his spot in the final four with that win over Djokovic, and even though he lost to Matteo Berrettini, 7-6 (3) 6-3, he still finished first place in Group Bjorn Borg. He had played the event three times before and never made it out of the round-robin stage.
“I think it was the first time I beat two of the Big Three back-to-back, which gives me a lot of confidence,” the Austrian said. “I’m super happy and proud that I’ve reached the semifinals for the first time. It was a big goal for me, but of course it’s not enough now.”
Zverev finished second place in Group Andre Agassi, coming out of the blocks strong with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Rafael Nadal, his first career win over the Spaniard. After falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-3, 6-2, Zverev bounced back against Daniil Medvedev in the last round-robin match of the week on Friday night, beating the Russian, 6-4, 7-6 (4), to secure his spot in the semifinals.
The 22-year-old German won the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals a year ago.
“I’ve had two good matches this week. The one in the middle wasn’t so good, but the win against Rafa was incredible!” Zverev said. “It doesn’t get any easier now, though. There are four great players through to the semifinals, and I’ll have to play my best tennis to have a chance to keep going.
“The most important thing is I’m in the semifinals again. This arena is the most special arena for me, where I’ve played my best tennis. The atmosphere is something we don’t play in anywhere else.”
Thiem leads Zverev in their head-to-head, 5-2, but they haven’t played each other in almost a year and a half. Thiem won their last meeting in the 2018 French Open quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. Also, they’re an even 1-1 away from clay, with Zverev winning on outdoor hard courts at Beijing in 2016, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, and Thiem getting revenge on indoor hard at Rotterdam in 2017, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“We’re playing the semifinals of the ATP Finals, so it’s always tough, and playing against your friend, too,” Zverev added. “He’s done very well all year, including here this week, and it’s just a great honor.
“It’s going to be a fun match.”
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