Thiem Comes Up Clutch Against Federer
Austrian defeats six-time champion on Day 1 in London
Dominic Thiem played with growing confidence throughout his 7-5, 7-5 victory over six-time former champion Roger Federer on Sunday night in Group Bjorn Borg play at the Nitto ATP Finals. It was a first opening group match win for Thiem, who is competing at the season finale for the fourth consecutive year.
“To beat him, everything has to fit together,” said Thiem. “Today, I think was the case again. I played very well. I played a good match in general. Serving, returning well, which is probably the two most important things indoors. Then, probably, also the last game was crucial. I don't even want to think about what happens if he wins that game and comes back to a tie-break. So I'm very happy that I pulled that through at 6-5.
“In general, it's a very nice victory for me. I mean, every time I play against him is a big honour. Beating him is even better, and especially on this surface indoors, where he's feeling well usually.”
Thiem extended his record to 5-2 over Federer in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, including three wins this year, and will next face Novak Djokovic on Tuesday night at The O2 in London. Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 6-1 earlier on Sunday. Buy Your Tickets
“I think he's the best right now. He proved that also in Bercy [at the Rolex Paris Masters] where he didn't somehow play his best tennis, but still won the title pretty easy. So that's how good his level is… Probably, right now, it's the biggest challenge you can face, to play Novak.”
The 26-year-old Thiem, who has won an ATP Tour-best five trophies this year, including his first ATP Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open (d. Federer) in March, has compiled a 47-17 match record.
Thiem got off to a fast start, but Federer worked his way back from 0/40 to 30/40, only to mishit a forehand wide and hand Thiem the first break for a 2-0 advantage. However, Thiem’s advantage was short-lived as two games later he was pressurized into striking a forehand wide. Thiem, enjoying a career-best season under the guidance of Nicolas Massu, made inroads again, happy to rally backhand-to-backhand with Federer and bide his time. When Federer shanked a backhand wide at 5-5, 30/40, it was advantage Thiem.
Thiem played a waiting game in the second set, but when it came to the crunch at 5-5, he was quick to step up the court and hit three winners. Federer, pinned back on the baseline, could not pick up a forehand return off his shoelaces. With time running out, Federer pressed but was unable to convert two break points at 5-6 as Thiem kept his nerve.
“I thought he played well,” said Federer. “I mean, the start definitely didn't help. That put me on the back foot a little bit. But I recovered well, and I thought after that the match was actually pretty even for a long period of time. I had my chances, I felt. I didn't feel like I was outplayed or anything. Just maybe that first-round hiccups a little bit, not hitting your spots on the serve when you need to, getting into trouble early in the service games which maybe doesn't happen later on in the tournament.
“I thought also Dominic saved himself real well when he had to, so I thought he played a tough first-round performance today, and my game was probably just not good enough, and the start didn't help.”
Federer is now 12-5 lifetime in opening matches at the Nitto ATP Finals. He also lost his first group match last year against Kei Nishikori. The 38-year-old won the season finale crown in 2003-04 (Houston), 2006-07 (Shanghai) and 2010-11 (London). He has a record 57-15 match record at the tournament, which was first held in Tokyo in 1970.