Clay-court specialist? Not Dominic Thiem, not in 2019.
The 26-year-old Austrian took another big step in his all-court transformation on Saturday, reaching the Nitto ATP Finals title match with a 7-5, 6-3 win against defending champion Alexander Zverev at The O2 in London.
Zverev hit his first serve well, landing more than 75 per cent. But Thiem was tougher in the big moments, breaking in the 12th game of the opening set when Zverev hit his third double fault, and in the sixth game of the second set after a cagey back and forth. The Austrian also saved all four break points on his racquet.
“This is just a big, big dream coming true for me,” Thiem said. “It’s unreal to me.”
During his first three trips to the season finale, Thiem won only three matches and never advanced out of the group stage. But he improved to 3-1 this week with the semi-final win and will face Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday for the biggest title of his career.
The Austrian leads Tsitsipas 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and won their only 2019 matchup, last month on hard court in the China Open final. Tsitsipas advanced earlier Saturday with a 6-3, 6-4 win against six-time champion Roger Federer.
Thiem matched Zverev’s 2018 accomplishment earlier this week by beating Federer and Novak Djokovic at the season finale, and the fifth seed brought the same aggressive style and steely nerves against Zverev that helped him knock off the two legends.