Tsit­si­pas, Thiem to play for ti­tle

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By MATTIAS KAREN

The ATP Fi­nals will have a first-time cham­pion for the fourth year in a row af­ter Stefanos Tsit­si­pas and Do­minic Thiem won their semi­fi­nals. Thiem beat de­fend­ing cham­pion Alexan­der Zverev af­ter Tsit­si­pas ousted six-time win­ner Roger Fed­erer.

LON­DON — The first time Do­minic Thiem played at the ATP Fi­nals, he was handed an un­known Greek teenager as a hit­ting part­ner in train­ing.

Three years later, Thiem is fac­ing that same player in the fi­nal of the sea­son-end­ing tour­na­ment.

Thiem beat de­fend­ing cham­pion Alexan­der Zverev in the semi­fi­nals on Satur­day af­ter Stefanos Tsit­si­pas ousted six-time win­ner Roger Fed­erer, set­ting up a ti­tle match be­tween two play­ers who first met each other at the O2 Arena un­der very dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances.

”I just saw a pic­ture be­fore that I prac­ticed with him the first time I played here 2016,” Thiem said af­ter beat­ing Zverev 7-5, 6-3. ”He was a hit­ting part­ner here. It’s an amaz­ing story for both of us. … We didn’t think that only three years later we were go­ing to face each other in the fi­nal.”

The now 21-year-old Tsit­si­pas had the most eye-catch­ing win on Satur­day, sav­ing 11 of 12 break points to beat Fed­erer 6-3, 6-4. He also took ad­van­tage of an er­ror-filled per­for­mance from Fed­erer, who con­tin­u­ally put his op­po­nent un­der pres­sure only to come up short when it mat­tered.

“I’m proud of my­self, how hard I fought to­day, how con­cen­trated I stayed in the break­points,” said Tsit­si­pas, who reached the big­gest fi­nal of his ca­reer. “Didn’t crack un­der pres­sure. I was very com­posed and very ma­ture in my de­ci­sions.”

In the evening match, Zverev dou­bled-faulted on set point to hand Thiem a 1-0 lead and was then bro­ken for the sec­ond time to make it 4-2 in the sec­ond set.

Thiem saved two break points in the next game to hold for 5-2, and then served out the match on his first at­tempt, clinch­ing the vic­tory with a fore­hand win­ner on match point.

The fi­nal pair­ing also en­sures that the tour­na­ment will have a first-time cham­pion for the fourth year in a row.

Fed­erer and No­vak Djokovic com­bined to win the ATP Fi­nals nine times in 10 years be­tween 2006-15 be­fore Andy Murray broke that streak and Gre­gor Dim­itrov won it in 2017.

Zverev was try­ing to re­peat last year’s ti­tle win but couldn’t con­vert any of the four break points he forced against Thiem. As he sat down for the changeover af­ter his dou­ble-fault to end the first set, he slammed his racket down so hard it bounced along the court and came to rest be­hind the baseline.

He was also frus­trated with the way he gave away a cheap break in the sec­ond set.

”I broke my­self. I missed two over­heads one me­ter away from the net,” Zverev said. ”It was just a bad game. Yeah, the match was over a few games later, so what can I do?”

Thiem beat both Fed­erer and Djokovic in the group stage just to reach the semi­fi­nals for the first time in four at­tempts at the tour­na­ment.

Tsit­si­pas, who is mak­ing his first ap­pear­ance at the event, saved all six break points he faced against Fed­erer in the first set. That in­cluded two at 5-3, when he needed seven set points be­fore fi­nally win­ning a marathon game.

He broke again for a 2-1 lead in the sec­ond, then saved three break points from 0-40 in the next game be­fore Fed­erer fi­nally con­verted his fourth to level the set.

But Tsit­si­pas broke again straight away with a fore­hand win­ner and then saved two more break points from 15-40 down when serv­ing for the match at 5-4.

He didn’t give the 38-year-old Fed­erer any more chances of a come­back, serv­ing out the match with an ace.

“No doubt I had my chances,” Fed­erer said. “I’m just frus­trated I couldn’t play better. And when I did and fought my way back, I threw it away again.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

WIN­NER Do­minic Thiem of Aus­tria plays a re­turn to Alexan­der Zverev of Ger­many dur­ing their ATP World Tour Fi­nals semi­fi­nal ten­nis match at the O2 Arena in Lon­don on Satur­day.

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