Dominic Thiem recovered from 2-6, 3-5 down to beat Karen Khachanov 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 at the China Open on Saturday and book his place at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
The top seed was overpowered in the early stages by the Russian, but fought back impressively to claim victory after two hours and 41 minutes. Thiem’s success confirms his spot alongside Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev at The O2 in London. Three spots remain up for grabs at the elite eight-man event, which takes place from 10-17 November.
Thiem improves to 2-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Khachanov. The Austrian also defeated Khachanov en route to his second straight Roland Garros final in June. Thiem will attempt to lift his fourth tour-level crown of the season, having already hoisted trophies in Indian Wells, Barcelona and Kitzbuhel.
Thiem will meet second seed Alexander Zverev or third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. The 14-time tour-level titlist leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Zverev 5-2 and owns a 3-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Tsitsipas.
Thiem entered the contest with an impeccable record on serve in Beijing, dropping just one of his 28 service games en route to the semi-finals. But Khachanov found regular success on return in the opening set.
The World No. 9 pushed his opponent behind the baseline with his forehand and moved up the court with success to seize an early advantage. After dropping his own serve, Khachanov continued to punish short balls and ripped a powerful forehand return to the laces of Thiem to earn his third service break and a one-set advantage.
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After committing back-to-back unforced errors to hand Khachanov an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-3, Thiem attacked the Russian’s backhand with added power on his forehand. The Austrian then claimed the 63-minute second set in a tie-break with aggressive play on his backhand to level the match.
Thiem and Khachanov traded early breaks in the deciding set, but the BNP Paribas Open titlist found the crucial breakthrough late in the decider as Khachanov served to reach a final-set tie-break. The World No. 5 drilled a backhand down the line early in the game and moved Khachanov off the court with a series of powerful forehands to claim the win.
Khachanov was bidding to reach his first championship match of the season. The 23-year-old’s most recent title run came at last year’s Rolex Paris Masters, where he defeated Thiem and Djokovic in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy.
Did You Know?
This is the first time in China Open history that the top four seeds have contested the semi-finals. Through 58 tournaments this season, this is just the second event — alongside Roland Garros — that has featured the top four seeds in the semi-finals.