I said in my preview that when it came down crunch time, Dominic Thiem wouldn’t be able to put away Roger Federer. But tonight, in a hard-fought final between the two, Thiem didn’t flinch when he got his chance to take down the GOAT, serving it out at 15 to win the biggest title of his lifetime 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two hours.
“It’s unreal,” said Thiem. “It’s a pleasure to compete against Roger in this great final. I lost my last two Masters 1000 finals, but I won this one and it feels as nice as a Grand Slam.
“It was a great week and I think also a very good final today. Just amazing that I got here, my first really big title. I came from a really bad form in all categories and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells. It feels not real at all.”
Thiem came out absolutely blasting the ball, but Federer wasn’t fazed. He had never lost a set to Thiem before on hardcourts in two previous meetings, and while you could tell Roger was going to have trouble staying with the Austrian off the ground, Federer had a good, early groove going on his serve, and solid read on Thiem’s.
Federer drew first blood (and would literally draw blood later) right away breaking Thiem in the second game, then again after Theim got back on serve at 3-4. Roger was in full command rolling to a brisk 6-3 first set.
Thiem was playing well and his court position was good, but his serve simply wasn’t bothering Federer.
In the second, it was very nearly over in straights as Thiem had to save two break points (effectively match points at that moment) at 1-1. Once he held, he then began to get his serve and his game in full gear.
And it didn’t take long for it to show.
Perhaps deflated from failing to break, Federer was quickly broken in that next 2-1 game. Suddenly Thiem was in full control and the 25-year-old rode that serve to a 6-3 set to even things up and force a decider.
Both guys kept dominating on their service games early in the third until Federer finally got another break chance at 3-4, 30-40, but Thiem held.
It looked like a another final set breaker in the desert was in store until Thiem hit back-to-back winners off Federer drop shots that set himself up for the break.
With the match now on his racquet, Thiem coolly and calmly served it out at 15 to claim the biggest trophy of his career.
“I was in the zone the whole match,” said Thiem. “I had to get used to Roger’s game. In the first set he was playing amazing. It was completely different from my opponents before him. I was struggling to work my way into the match. I had to fight to save those break points early in the second set. It was a very good match until the end and I had to fight to serve it out.”
Thiem began the year just 3-4 but beat two guys this weekend he had never before taken a set off of on hardcourts. He’ll jump from No. 8 in the ranking a new career-high and above Federer at No. 4.
For Roger, a second straight heartbreaking defeat in the Indian Wells final where he has now finished second four of the last five times he’s played the event. And in the final, he was just 2/11 on break chances and was overpower from the baseline.
“I’m not too disappointed,” said Federer who was seeking a record 6th Indian Wells title, 101st overall. “I feel like he had to come up with the goods, and it did feel like to some extent it was on my racquet. I just came up against somebody who was on the day a bit better when it really mattered.
“That’s how it goes. It’s frustrating and disappointing and sad to some extent, but I have been in these positions so many times.
“I have been playing every single day for the last three weeks. I can be very happy and proud of that fact.”
Yup, March Madness is here. Who would have believed Bianca Andreescu would have won this title or that Dominic Thiem’s biggest career title would be on a hard court of all surfaces?
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