Dominic Thiem got his Nitto ATP Finals campaign off to the best possible start with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Roger Federer at the O2 Arena in London. The Austrian recorded his third victory over the Swiss in 2019 and is now 5-2 lifetime against Federer.
"To beat him, everything has to fit together", Thiem said following the match. "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 most important thing indoors."
Thiem closes fast to claim opening set
Thiem was off the mark early, sprinting out to a 0-40 lead on Federer's serve. The third-seeded Swiss saved the first two break points, but badly mishit a forehand on the third to hand the Austrian an early advantage, which he extended to 2-0 with a subsequent hold.
Federer struck back, breaking Thiem when he hit his forehand wide to level the set at 2-2. Each man held through the next six games with honors remaining even at 5-5. Thiem then had a chance to regain his advantage and he did so when the Swiss shanked a backhand.
Serving for the set, Thiem was ahead 30-0 only to be pegged back to 30-30 after a blistering Federer forehand winner, but the two-time Roland Garros finalist hit his own forehand for a winner to bring up set point and closed it out when the Swiss again got a backhand all wrong to give Thiem a one-set lead.
Austrian takes the second set in similar fashion to the first to clinch important victory
Federer escaped a 15-30 hole in the third game to hold and a searing backhand down the line brought up a break point, saved when Thiem's forehand extracted an error from the Swiss. He held in the seventh game after seeing a 40-0 lead nearly evaporate completely. Another hold put him one game from the set at 5-4 just as he was in the first set.
An ace closed out the tenth game for Thiem and he benefitted from a rash of errors from Federer, including a backhand volley miss to set up triple break point and a deep return drew a Federer forehand error to give the Austrian a 6-5 lead.
Serving for the match, the fifth seed had to save two break points and needed a pair of match points, converting on his second chance when a strong wide serve forced a Federer backhand chip into the bottom of the net to put himself in prime position to reach the semifinals.