Sheer Aus­trian magic

FI­NAL: THIEM OUT­LASTS ZVEREV TO SET UP SHOW­DOWN WITH DJOKOVIC

The Citizen (KZN) - - Sport - Melbourne

Tire­less Do­minic Thiem came from a set down to out­last Ger­man Alexan­der Zverev and make his first Aus­tralian Open fi­nal yes­ter­day, book­ing a show­down with seven-time cham­pion No­vak Djokovic.

The 26-year-old fifth seed, the first player from Aus­tria ever to reach the Melbourne de­cider, bat­tled past sev­enth-ranked Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) on a swel­ter­ing evening.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Djokovic awaits him af­ter the sec­ond seed ended Roger Fed­erer’s dreams in straight sets on Thurs­day to make his eighth Melbourne Park fi­nal.

Thiem has his work cut out against the Serb who is on a 12-match un­beaten streak this sea­son and has won all seven of the Aus­tralian Open de­ciders he has con­tested.

And if Djokovic needs ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion, win­ning on Sun­day will see him re­claim the world No 1 rank­ing af­ter Rafael Nadal crashed to Thiem in the last eight.

“It was an un­real match, two tie-break­ers, so tough and so close. It was al­most im­pos­si­ble to break him,” said Thiem.

“Be­ing in the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal is un­real. What a start to the sea­son for me.”

Thiem had dealt with semi­fi­nal pres­sure be­fore, al­though al­ways on the slower red clay at Roland Gar­ros, where he reached the past two fi­nals only to be beaten by Nadal.

That ex­pe­ri­ence paid div­i­dends as he coolly closed out the match af­ter three hours and 42 mins to give him­self another chance to break the stran­gle­hold of the “Big Three” and win his first Grand Slam.

“I played for over four hours against Rafa (in the quar­ter­fi­nals), who is the most in­tense guy on tour, al­most al­ways so in­tense and long,” Thiem said.

“So it was not easy to re­cover. But all the adrenalin came once I walked into the full sta­dium and I was fine, ac­tu­ally, but still I had some trou­bles in the first set.”

A jit­tery Thiem was bro­ken in the open­ing game, sav­ing two break points be­fore send­ing a back­hand wide to im­me­di­ately be on the back foot.

Both play­ers were ner­vous and the Ger­man failed to con­sol­i­date, bro­ken straight back.

Their mo­men­tum was in­ter­rupted when rain be­gan fall­ing and the roof needed clos­ing, but it was only a brief in­ter­mis­sion and Zverev re­sumed to hold for 2-2.

Zverev took com­mand, putting 90% of his boom­ing first serves in, and broke again to seal the set. Zverev man­aged to break back but he was too er­ratic as Thiem broke again and clung on, fir­ing an ace to take set two.

Thiem held serve and then broke with an epic back­hand win­ner as Zverev again lost con­cen­tra­tion. Thiem is one of the best re­turn­ers in the game and was get­ting al­most ev­ery ball back. There was lit­tle be­tween them in the cru­cial fourth set as they traded blows.

It went to serve and another tie-breaker when Thiem’s ex­pe­ri­ence helped him over the line. – AFP

Pic­ture: AFP

THAT’S IT. Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem cel­e­brates af­ter vic­tory against Ger­many’s Alexan­der Zverev in their semi-fi­nal at the Aus­tralian Open in Melbourne yes­ter­day.

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