Thiem Saves 2 M.P. To Beat Federer In Madrid Thriller

Austrian will play Djokovic on Saturday

Dominic Thiem hung tough and saved two match points on Friday in an enthralling and dramatic 3-6, 7-6(11), 6-4 victory over three-time former champion Roger Federer at the Mutua Madrid Open in two hours and 11 minutes.

The fifth-seeded Austrian, who has finished runner-up at this ATP Masters 1000 tournament for the past two years, saved match points at 7/8 and 9/10 in the second set tie-break and carried the momentum into the deciding set with a service break — on his ninth opportunity — in the third game. Fourth seed Federer broke back for 4-4, but on break point in the next game, when approaching the net, rued letting a Thiem forehand return go by.

Read Federer Reaction: 'Losing With Match Points Is The Worst'

Thiem, victor over Federer for his first Masters 1000 crown in the BNP Paribas Open final on 17 March, will now look to extend his eight-match winning streak against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2011 and 2016 Madrid titlist, on Saturday. The 25-year-old Thiem is 2-5 against the Serbian, but has won their past two meetings in the 2017 Roland Garros quarter-finals and last year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters third round.

“The test today was huge and tomorrow is a different game, of course,” said Thiem. “But I was playing Novak last year, and two years ago, and he was not at his best, I guess. Now he is again. He's won the last three Grand Slams and he is at the top of the ATP Ranking again. So the challenge couldn't be bigger… I'll try to keep up my good momentum which I have now and give my best again.”

Earlier in the day, 2011 and 2016 champion Djokovic advanced to his 62nd ATP Masters 1000 semi-final without striking a ball when ninth seed Marin Cilic withdrew due to food poisoning.

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Just like against Gael Monfils on Thursday, in the 1,200th match win of his career, Federer got off to a fast start by taking a 3-0 lead — breaking serve when Thiem made a forehand error in the second game. After five service games, Federer had lost five points and Thiem was treading water too deep behind the baseline. Federer wrapped up the 30-minute opener when Thiem struck a forehand long (his 11th error).

Federer came under pressure early in the second set, but his first serve and natural attacking instincts came to the rescue – twice in the second game from 15/40 and again at 2-3, 0/40. While Thiem was solid on serve, Federer dictated with his forehand in long rallies by positioning himself in the Ad court.

Thiem made consecutive errors at the start of the tie-break, but battled back from 0/3 down to win six of the next seven points. Serving at 6/5, Thiem was left flat-footed as Federer disguised a backhand drop shot and the Austrian was left kicking himself at 7/6 when he overcooked a forehand. Federer went for broke at 8/7 on a forehand return; a third set point went begging for Thiem at 9/8 and he needed a big forehand to save a second match point for Federer at 9/10. Federer saved a fifth set point with a first serve at 10/11, but Thiem was not to be denied on serve at 12/11 with an aggressive forehand/smash combination.

Thiem found his forehand range, pinning Federer behind the baseline early in the decider. Finally able to get a look on a second serve, Thiem made his move in the third game when he broke Federer’s serve for the first time with successive forehands on his ninth break point chance. In what was becoming an encounter of fine margins, Federer responded immediately at 1-2, yet Thiem denied his Swiss opponent two break points.

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Deep returns from Federer at 3-4 ensured there was to be another twist but, in the next game, Thiem locked in on return and set up three break points. Federer saved the first with a first serve out wide, the second with a high volley winner, but on approach to the net at 30/40, the Swiss left a forehand return that dropped inside the Ad court tramline.

Federer, who was playing his first clay-court tournament for three years, last beat a Top 10 player on red dirt at the 2015 Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome (Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals). Today marks the 21st time that Federer has held a match point(s) and lost. It is the first time that Federer lost a match after having match point since the 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finals, when he fell to Kevin Anderson 13-11 in the fifth set. In his last visit to Madrid in May 2015, Federer lost to Nick Kyrgios in three tie-breaks in their second-round clash after holding two match points.

This year, Federer won the 100th title of his career at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (d. Tsitsipas) in February and won his 28th Masters 1000 trophy at the Miami Open presented by Itau (d. Isner) in March. He is now 20-3 in 2019.

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