Dominic Thiem started his week in London with a thunderous bang by posting back-to-back wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Now, the Austrian will look to make his loudest statement of the year in Sunday’s championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Thiem set up a clash of one-handed backhands with first-time qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas after denying defending champion, Alexander Zverev, 7-5, 6-3, in the second semifinal on Saturday. Thanks to crisper ball-striking and superior composure, the world No. 5 improved to 6-2 against Zverev to extend his best run at the season finale. In his three prior appearances, Thiem failed to advance out of the round-robin stage.
"This is a big dream coming true for me. It's one of the most prestigious tournaments all year. It's unreal to me," Thiem said on-court afterwards. "To beat the defending champion, a good friend and an unbelievable player, is always a great achievement. I'm very happy."
The 26-year-old will carry a 4-2 head-to-head mark in his matchup with Tsitsipas, having recently defeated the Greek for the Beijing title last month. Tsitsipas knocked out Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-4, earlier Saturday after saving 11 of the 12 break points he faced. Both Tsitsipas and Thiem are seeking the biggest title of their careers.
To no surprise, both Thiem and Zverev came out prepared for a physical battle on the baseline. Thiem was pressured in the early goings, saving break point in two separate games. For the most part though, each competitor ran up the scoreboard without much resistance until the 12th game. Zverev suddenly went off the rails, making three consecutive errors—two being complete mishits on the forehand. Zverev double faulted on Thiem’s second set point, inciting a forceful racquet toss after he donated 19 unforced errors in the opener.
In his two round-robin wins, Zverev was virtually untouchable on serve. Thiem took a more defensive position behind the baseline, an approach that enabled the two-time Roland Garros finalist to put enough returns in play. Serving at 2-3, Zverev’s hitting grew erratic again. He fought off two break points, but Thiem made it third time’s the charm after handcuffing Zverev at the net to move ahead 4-2. Thiem erased two break points to consolidate and closed out the match in his next service game.