It was a memorable tennis evening at the ATP finals in London, a high-class duel, until the end with an unclear outcome. But in the end, Dominic Thiem prevailed after a missed match against Novak Djokovic and won (6: 7, 6: 3, 7: 6) in the tiebreak of the third set against the best tennis player in the world. Lucky Thiem fell to the ground. Normally such a landing would be soft for him, because if Thiem could win big duels, then mostly on sand. But this season he also wins on hard courts, as currently in London.
"Super Domi", sang the big fan group from Austria, who had traveled after him when Thiem had made it and for the first time entered the semi-finals of the last tournament of the year. For the 26-year-olds a special success, especially since he succeeded after victories against Roger Federer on Sunday and now Djokovic. The tennis world listens. Will Thiem make the breakthrough now?
Thiem has worked his way up in the past few years to become the first challenger to Rafael Nadal on Sand, but always failed shortly before Ultimo. Thiem, that's still the polite Dominic. The young man who looks everyone in the eye while talking and is friendly with ball kids.
Rough and now also variable
Thiem is also friendly in autumn 2019. But he is also someone who has gone through a maturing process on and off the court. Since the beginning of the year there has been the gradual separation of Günter Bresnik. The 58-year-old Bresnik had trained Thiem for about 15 years, written a book about his model pupil, talked to him in public and negotiated behind the scenes in his name.
But since this spring Thiem is on his own feet, that is also playful. Thiem saw the tennis sport under Bresnik rather than weight training. With the force of a cannon he hit the balls, often much harder than his opponents. Duels against Thiem, that was also arm wrestling on a high level.
Without Bresnik and in the fall of 2019, there is hardly any other player who can make a ball from the baseline as fast as Thiem, the 26-year-old is still a man for the rough. But also one who now masters just those tactical finesses that decide matches between the best players in the world. His game has become more variable.
The way Thiem did in his victory against Federer varied the serve, getting as close as possible to the baseline in the rallies, only to take two steps back against Djokovic on Tuesday - this is not going to be a big playful highlight keep in remembrance. But it came very close to a brilliant performance.
19 defeats in 23 hard court duels
Thiem is not the first player to defeat the eternal three - Djokovic, Federer and Nadal - last year. Daniil Medvedev is a title candidate for the upcoming Grand Slam tournaments since his final appearance at the US Open. The young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas is considered a specialist for victories against the big ones. Alexander Zverev won last year's final tournament of the season in London - and he also started in this issue with a win against Nadal.
But Thiem looks more mature than the other young challengers. Also, because the supposed clay court player had achieved tournament victories in the hard courts of Beijing and Vienna this season, he now solidified the positive impressions in London. Notable is this development, because he had before the season a record of four wins and 19 defeats in hard court duels against top ten players.
Thiem hopes the recent successes will have a positive impact on the new year. However, that is still future music. Now the last days of the ATP World Tour Finals are waiting. Here are the best eight players in the world against each other - and one of them is Thiem. So far, he was even the best.