By Martyn Herman
LONDON, Nov 21 (.) – Dominic Thiem rebounded on Saturday as he was about to be beaten by Novak Djokovic in an electrifying ATP Finals match to reach the final of the competition for the second year in a row.
The 27-year-old Austrian appeared to be slipping into defeat when he fell behind 0-4 in the third set tiebreaker, but looked for strength to win 7-5 6-7 (10) 7-6 (5) in just under three hours.
World number three Thiem was the best player in the first set, sealing it with a direct serve point after breaking serve at 5-5.
The absorbing second-set tiebreak gave Thiem four chances to seal the victory, but after a double fault on match point, Djokovic showed real grit to take the game away.
Serves dominated in the third set, and when Thiem started the second tiebreak of the day and then lost the next three points, it seemed the end was near.
Instead, the world number three responded voraciously, earning the next six points and setting up two more match points with a scorching cross backhand, one of many he deployed during the duel.
Djokovic saved a fifth match point, but Thiem finally closed the match when he forced his opponent to land a defensive forehand over the baseline.
On Sunday in the final against Rafa Nadal or Daniil Medvedev, Thiem will attempt to complete a stellar year in his career, in which he earned his first Grand Slam title by winning the US Open.
“It was a mental battle, I was very close in the second set tiebreaker,” said Thiem, who avenged his loss to Djokovic in the final of this year’s Australian Open, said on the court.
The defeat means for Djokovic that he will have to wait until the event moves to Turin next year, after 12 years in London, to try again to equal Roger Federer’s six titles in the most important competition at the end of the year.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo)