Dominic Thiem will compete in the second straight ATP Finals title match following an epic 7-5, 6-7, 7-6 victory over Novak Djokovic in two hours and 54 minutes. It was their 12th meeting and the fifth victory for the Austrian, who came back from 4-0 down in the deciding tie break to bring the victory home.
Novak lost serve only once in the opener, giving his best to remain in touch and wasting that massive advantage in the final breaker to finish his run in the semis. The opening set saw some brilliant points on both sides but also basic mistakes.
They both served well, and the only break came at 5-5 when the Austrian moved in front, winning six points more than Novak for an early lead. Dominic had the upper hand in the rallies, hitting 14 winners and 14 unforced errors and blasting a service winner in 40% of the points behind the initial shot.
Thiem netted a forehand in the opening game to hand the game to Novak, struggling from the right wing in the first 15 or 20 minutes. The Austrian caught a great volley at the net in the second game and closed it following a backhand mistake from the Serb to get his name on the scoreboard.
A service winner pushed Djokovic 2-1 in front, followed by a backhand winner from Thiem, who held at love to bring the result back to 2-2. The five-time champion placed a forehand winner to secure the fifth game, playing well behind the initial shot so far and hoping for a chance on the return.
He reached deuce in the next one, denied by a service winner from Thiem, who remained calm to deliver another hold and stay on the positive side. From 0-30, Novak played four good points on serve to secure the seventh game and open his fourth lead, losing it after a hold at love for Thiem a few minutes later, for more drama.
Djokovic grabbed the ninth game with a service winner and moved two points away from the set on the return in the next one. The US Open champion stayed calm and brought it home with a powerful serve, leveling the score at 5-5 and earning momentum.
Dominic created a break chance with a forehand winner and seized it after a volley error from Novak, opening a 6-5 gap and closing the set with an ace down the T line after 51 minutes. There was nothing to separate the rivals in set number two as well, with one break chances wasted for each player in games five and eight.
After four great holds, the Austrian created a break chance at 2-2, netting an easy forehand and squandering a massive opportunity.
Dominic Thiem needed almost three hours to oust Novak Djokovic.
At 3-4, Dominic landed an unreturned serve to erase a break point, facing two set points at 5-6.
Holding his nerves, the Austrian fended off both and closed the game after two deuces to reach a tie break. Thiem made an early mini-break and moved 2-0 up with a service winner. Novak pulled the mini-break back in the third point and moved 3-2 in front, taking the fourth straight point to increase the advantage.
Dominic moved back to 4-4 with a forehand drive-volley winner and hit two service winners for 6-5 and a match point. Djokovic saved it with a good serve to prolong the encounter, only to fall 7-6 down after a volley error at the net.
Dominic squandered the second match point with a double fault and lost the second point behind the serve after a backhand mistake to offer Novak a set point. Novak wasted it after a loose forehand and handed the next point to Thiem after a forehand winner from the Austrian, who earned the third match point.
The Austrian placed a forehand wide to keep the Serb alive, bringing the fourth match point with a smash winner. Serving at 9-10, Djokovic painted a forehand down the line winner to extend his chances, moving 11-10 in front with a service winner.
Finally, Novak converted the second set point after a loose backhand from his opponent, gathering a massive boost and setting up a decider. Both players lost just two points in the opening three service games to stay neck and neck at 3-3 in the final set.
Thiem reached deuce on the return at 4-3 before Djokovic fired two service winners and sent the danger away. The Austrian grabbed the ninth game after forcing an error from the Serb at the net, forcing Novak to serve for staying in the match.
With no room for mistakes, Djokovic held with a forehand winner, maintaining a high level to send the pressure to the other side. Dominic closed the 11th game when Djokovic sprayed a backhand mistake, securing a tie break and hoping for a good return game that would push him through.
Staying calm, Novak denied that with a hold at 15, bringing on the decisive tie break after over 160 minutes. Thiem hit a double fault in the first point and fell 3-0 down after two service winners from Djokovic. Dominic came from 4-0 down and won the next five points for a remarkable recovery and a 5-4 lead following an ace.
A fantastic backhand crosscourt winner brought two match points for the Austrian, converting the second at 6-5 to seal the deal and prevail into the final.