Dominic Thiem advanced to his first Australian Open final coming from a set down to deny Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(4) and book a spot in his first hard court Slam final.
Thiem dictated the match off the ground but Zverev had his serve working early and often. The 22-year-old popped 16 aces (some at high velocity on second serve!) and finished with a very sharp 81% of first serves in. Zverev also matched Thiem in the rallies, but the two lost breakers cost him in the 3 hour, 42 minute affair.
“It was an unreal match, two tiebreaks, so tough and so close,” Thiem said to the crowd. “It was almost impossible to break him, with such a high percentage of first serves. An Australian Open final is unreal, and what a start to the season so far.”
After the two split two edgy sets which saw seven breaks of serve and Thiem feeling some stomach issues in the first due to nerves, the two first-time Australian semifinalists settled down. Zverev kept his serve percentage sky-high and the aces flowing, but Thiem took over the first breaker.
The fourth set didn’t see a break point. In the breaker, Zverev’s now-trusty serve failed him with a double fault. He then followed with a disastrous overhead and was unable to recover from there, losing to the Austrian for a seventh time in nine meetings.
“He is a great player, we’ve known that for a long time,” Thiem said of Zverev. “It’s been a breakthrough week. I think both of us deserved to win today, maybe it’s experience or something else.
“I’m sure it won’t be long until he gets through to his first Grand Slam final.”
After a horrendous ATP Cup, it turned into quite an unexpected run for Zverev who reached his first Grand Slam semifinal and beat a hot Andrey Rublev and former champion Stan Wawrinka along the way.
“I had 14 break points,” said Zverev who finished 5-for-14 on break chances.
“That should be plenty. In the important moments, I didn’t play my best. He did. That’s where the match kind of went his way. We’ve had a lot of tight moments, four tight sets. In the third set I had set points. In the fourth set, I had chances. Just got to execute better next time. But credit to him. He’s playing unbelievable tennis right now.”
Thiem, who already eliminated Rafael Nadal, now has a Sunday date with 7-time champion Novak Djokovic who has never lost once he reached the Australian Open final four.
Djokovic leads 6-4 but Thiem has won four of the last five including at the ATP Finals in London this past November.
Thiem, though, has spent far longer on court and Djokovic is currently enjoying two full days of rest before the final.
“It’s unbelievable, twice in Roland Garros finals, twice facing Rafa,” Thiem said.
“Now facing Novak here, he’s the king of Australia so I’m always facing the kings of the Grand Slams in these finals.
“I’ll try everything I can to win,” he added. “If I walk off the court a loser in two days I have to be patient, trust the process.”
Thiem failed twice to beat Rafael Nadal on his home court in Paris, can he pull off the upset on Novak’s court in Melbourne?
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