Two players who I didn’t even have making the semifinals are in the title match of the ATP Finals on Sunday. The last tournament of the 2019 season will feature Dominic Thiem taking on Stefanos Tsitsipas after both enjoyed comfortable straight set wins today.
Tsitsipas, who beat Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev during his round robin week, got over once again on Roger Federer. A day after falling in three to Rafael Nadal, the Greek showed no signs of that 3-hour battle with the Spaniard, outslugging Federer who was well-rested and in-form following one of his best performances of the year Thursday against Novak Djokovic.
Like in Australia where Federer went 0-for-12 against Tsitsipas on break points, today, Roger was just as bad going an awful 1-for-12.
Tsitsipas was simply too good in all departments and really took it to Federer during the cross-court one-handed backhand battles.
Bottom line: The 17-year age gap showed.
“I remember myself being one of these kids here, watching the event and..I could never picture myself standing here, but it did happen,” Tsitsipas said. “Dreams do come true.
“Sometimes in matches like this, you wonder how you overcome all these difficulties, all these break points down. It’s really a mental struggle, so I’m really proud that I managed to save so many break points today,” Tsitsipas added. “I was trying not to give an easy time to Roger. He was playing good and shout out to him as well. He did pretty well this week.”
Federer’s exit means on Sunday there will be a new ATP Finals champion for a fourth straight year.
“I thought that he played really well. He took the ball early. I know he does that. I thought I returned pretty good on the first serve,” said Federer.
“But for the most part, I wasn’t quite getting into the rallies the way I wanted to,” he said. “I think I have to credit him for pushing me to not play at the level I was hoping to today.”
Tsitsipas was up on the baseline and Federer just couldn’t hit through the youngster. And once Federer was on the run, he got in trouble.
So Tsitsipas will now get Thiem who won a tight first set then hung on to eliminate defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 6-3.
Zverev has been plagued by serving woes all year and it surfaced again today late in the first when he doubled to give the set away. While he was pumping the first serve well, the German star struggled on his second and that cost him. As did some mangled overheads!
Thiem didn’t serve great, but fought through some tight moments in the second and as he’s done all week, all year and all his career, he just ruthlessly pounded ground strokes.
“This is just a big, big dream coming true for me,” Thiem said. “It is one of the best tournaments all year, one of the most prestigious tournaments all year, and I’m getting the chance to play the final tomorrow. It’s unreal to me. To beat the defending champion, a good player, an unbelievable player, this is always a great achievement and I’m very, very happy.”
To the final…
Dominic Thiem v Stefanos Tsitsipas
I’m not surprised the Greek got here. He beat Medvedev and earned his way in. And I’m not stunned he beat Roger today. He’s had a great year and he deserves this final.
I am surprised that Thiem was able to get through Federer and Djokovic in his group. Federer had a great win over Novak. But Djokovic wasn’t right for whatever reason and Thiem took advantage. And did so on arguably his worst surface – a quick hardcourt.
Looking at this match-up, Thiem leads 4-2 with all meetings since the start of 2018. Thiem won recently in the Beijing final in three sets last month and I’m going to give him the slight edge here.
Thiem seems to be in better form of late, has the experience and has the head-to-head advantage.
That said, I think this quick court might be better for Tsitsipas and I think the Greek is more dynamic than Thiem. Stefanos has got a better serve and a little more variety.
“This does feel, in a way, like a Grand Slam, because all eyes are here. Everyone knows this event. Everyone who watches tennis knows what the Nitto Finals are,” Tsitsipas said. “For me, it’s a great new start, great new beginning to be here, playing in the Finals. I would compare it almost as a Grand Slam, for sure, but you have less matches. It’s really very difficult to be in that position I am in right now, and it counts a lot.”
But this match is going to come down to who pounds the ball better and I think Thiem is just a bit stronger in that category.
“One-handed backhand final. We are both very offensive players, he’s very attractive to watch. I love to watch him, so I’m really looking forward to playing,” Thiem said. “I’m so happy and also lucky to get another chance to play in front of this amazing atmosphere.”
If Dominic stays up in the court, gets some errors from Tsitsipas, then he’s the champion. Regardless, it’s a hell-of-a run for both guys, especially for Tsitsipas who was winning the NextGen final this time last year. Now, they each seek their biggest career title. Who gets it tomorrow?
The Pick: Thiem in 3
ESPN2 will have live coverage at 3pm ET. It’s weird without a Big 3 in the title match, but welcome to the future.
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