Dominic Thiem had no regrets as he was left feeling "emptiness" after his thrilling Australian Open final loss to Novak Djokovic.

Thiem fell short of winning a maiden grand slam title, losing 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 after almost four hours on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.

Playing his third major final, the 26-year-old Austrian had his chances, squandering a break point in the fourth set and opportunities to get back on serve in the fifth.

But Thiem insisted he had no regrets after his loss to Djokovic, who claimed a record-extending eighth Australian Open title.

"I think there's not much to change. Also, in the last two sets, I definitely gave everything I had," he said.

"Novak is part of three guys who are by far the best players ever who played tennis. If you play a grand slam final against him, it's always going to be a match where very small details are decisive.

"What happened, I mean, if I could say anything, I would just say that maybe I could have converted the break point in the fourth set where I could have the lead 2-1. Then I think he had some issues in the second set. He recovered very well.

"He played really good after in set three and four. Of course, there were some small mistakes here and there, but they're happening. At the end was a super close five-setter. I don't really regret anything."

Thiem produced a memorable run in Melbourne, including wins over Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals and semis respectively.

The two-time French Open runner-up was exhausted, but said he would return hungry to win a first grand slam crown.

"I think I've rarely felt physically that tired, especially now after all the tension's gone," Thiem said.

"I played an unbelievable intense match against Rafa, such an intense match against Sascha [Zverev] in the semis. Today again I think almost over four hours. I think that was very demanding.

"Of course, I just feel a lot of emptiness right now. But, yeah, that's it. I know the feeling. I did after the last two in Paris.

"But, also already now I feel little bit of motivation to come back for the next grand slam. Well, if I have a little break, it's going to be bigger."

Novak Djokovic was in charge, and then he was not, He was injured, and then he was not. He was sliding to defeat, yet suddenly he was not.

And now the Serbian is a 17-time grand slam champion, fast closing on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on the all-time list, after an eighth Australian Open title.

World number one again, into the bargain.

And that familiar beat goes on. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have now swept up the last 13 slams between them. Interlopers, keep trying your best lads.

Many greats of the Open era barely gave a Castlemaine XXXX about the Australian Open until the mid-1980s, the likes of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe repeatedly giving Melbourne a miss.

Yet Djokovic has built his career around repeated triumphs on Rod Laver Arena and is now 8-0 in Australian Open finals, joining Nadal and Federer as the only players to have won a single slam eight or more times.

Nadal's 12 Roland Garros triumphs may never be surpassed, Federer has savoured eight Wimbledon successes, and now Djokovic belongs to the eight-and-up club.

In previous years Djokovic has used this fortnight as a springboard to a new season, but he arrived at Melbourne Park already on a high, fresh from helping Serbia to glory in Sydney in the inaugural ATP Cup, fresh from beating Nadal so soon into a new season. Fresh to take on the world.

Yet for a long stretch of this five-set final against Dominic Thiem, Djokovic looked anything but fresh.

After trading breaks, Djokovic was gifted the first set when Thiem flunked a backhand and then double-faulted.

Usually a mighty front-runner, Djokovic's game began to splutter. Two double faults in game three of the second set saw him hand over the advantage to Thiem, who was ahead despite his often mighty backhand operating temperamentally.

It was that single-handed shot that was threatening to undo Thiem's otherwise fine work as he forged to level the match, and a wild example gave back the break, with Djokovic looking sharper after a change of racket.

But the 32-year-old from Belgrade can blow up too, and when he dropped serve for a second time in the set, after being twice penalised for time violations before slamming a forehand over the baseline, Djokovic was rattled.

He approached chair umpire Damien Dumusois, tapped him on the shoe and snapped: "Great job man, especially in the second one. You made yourself famous, well done."

The inelegant show of dissent was followed by Thiem wrapping up the set then swiftly tearing to a 4-0 lead in the third.

Thiem's backhand was back, while Djokovic appeared physically sapped. Limping, at times almost unsteady on his feet; anyone else and you might have written him off.

But Djokovic has shown a limp and followed it with a sprint before.

And although Mr Dumusois had not heard the end of Djokovic's complaints - the umpire's failure to immediately over-rule a call of 'out' led to another snippy rebuke - soon the match began to turn around.

Thiem made sure of set three, but just as a first grand slam title came into the Austrian's sights, it was clinically wrenched away.

A cheap concession of serve in the eighth game of the fourth set allowed Djokovic to level. Thiem was a rabbit in the headlights, Djokovic on full beam.

Breaking in the third game of the decider put Djokovic firmly in control, and that was swiftly followed by the saving of two break points, which effectively killed Thiem.

So what then of Thiem?

He said all the right things afterwards, praising Djokovic and speaking of the bigger picture in light of Australia's bushfire crisis.

But after two French Open final defeats to Rafael Nadal, another slam setback will feel more painful by the day, particularly as he was in the ascent this time.

Ask Andy Murray, who lost four slam finals before making his breakthrough at the 2012 US Open, what these days feel like below the surface.

To take a Murrayism, Thiem is getting closer.

Thiem is certainly due a break. He fell short in the ATP Finals title match last November, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and split from girlfriend Kristina Mladenovic at around the same time.

In an eye-catching move, he hired his compatriot Thomas Muster to join his coaching team for 2020, but they have already parted company.

When he beat Djokovic during the ATP Finals, Thiem said it took "something outstanding, something unusual" to achieve that feat.

That was a best-of-three contest though. Over five sets, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer remain the untouchable trio when it comes to slam finals.

A Djokovic fan, wearing a red and white T-shirt bearing the message "Serbia against the world", roared on his man as he reached the brink of this latest triumph.

Federer's haul of 20 slams is within striking range, with Djokovic three short of the Swiss and two behind Nadal.

And here's a thing: the men's game has still yet to see a grand slam singles winner born in the 1990s.

Thiem would have become the first. He held this match in his hands, and he dropped it.

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and runner-up Dominic Thiem each offered a sense of perspective following their thrilling men's singles final at Melbourne Park, with the Serbian issuing a call for unity in the wake of a number of tragic events at the start of 2020.

Djokovic came from two sets to one down inside Rod Laver Arena on Sunday to prevail 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 and claim a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown, denying Thiem a maiden grand slam title.

In the on-court presentation, both players were keen to highlight matters away from the court, with Djokovic referencing both the Australian bushfires and last weekend's death of NBA great Kobe Bryant, his friend and mentor.

After Thiem had spoken movingly about the troubles in Australia, Djokovic stated: "As Dominic was saying, there were some devastating things that started 2020, with huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world, people dying every day. One person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well, with his daughter.

"I would just like to, I guess, say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever, be with our families, stay close to the people that love you, that care about you.

"Of course we are part of professional sport, we compete and we try our best, but obviously there are more important things in life and it's important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you."

Thiem had earlier said: "There are way more important things in life and it's very tough what this beautiful country has been through and is still going through.

"I think that the Australian Open was a great distraction, but I still hope that Australia - it's so beautiful, it's so amazing - all the people who were affected, the wildlife and the animals that were affected, that they are recovering very soon and that a disaster like this never happens again."

Djokovic and Thiem paid tribute to each other's efforts in the final, with the champion telling his rival: "It wasn't meant to be tonight. Tough luck, and it was a tough match, but you were very close to winning it and you definitely have a lot more time in your career and I am sure that you will get one of the grand slam trophies ... and more, more than one."

A similarly gracious Thiem congratulated his opponent and hailed the all-conquering trio of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - who now have 56 slam singles titles between them - for bringing "men's tennis to a completely new level".

He added: "I'm really proud and happy that I can compete in this time and this period of tennis. I fell a little bit short today, but I hope that I can soon get revenge."

Novak Djokovic extended his record for the most Australian Open titles, clinching an eighth after edging Dominic Thiem in Sunday's final.

The Serbian star moved onto 17 major crowns by overcoming Thiem 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 after three hours, 59 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic became the third man to win a single major eight times, with Rafael Nadal (12 French Open titles) and Roger Federer (eight at Wimbledon) having also achieved the feat.

We take a look back at all of his Australian Open successes.

2008 – A maiden grand slam title

Aged 20, this was Djokovic's fourth main-draw appearance in Melbourne and his previous best had been the fourth round the year prior.

But he produced a flying run to the final, beating Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets in the last 16 and top seed Federer in the semis.

Djokovic, the third seed, was left with a surprise opponent in the final and he made the most of his chance, coming from a set down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

It was the first grand slam since the 2005 Australian Open not won by either Federer or Nadal.

2011 – The beginning of complete Melbourne dominance

Djokovic had to wait three years for his second title in Melbourne, but it started a wonderful run of dominance.

He was largely untouchable again on his way to the final, including wins over top-10 seeds Tomas Berdych and Federer.

Djokovic crushed Andy Murray 6-4 6-2 6-3 in the decider to win the first of an incredible three grand slams in 2011.

 

2012 – Coming through two epics

This would be a major best remembered for two matches – Djokovic's semi and final.

He took almost five hours to get past Murray in the last four in a match that seemed certain to ruin his chances in the decider.

Somehow, Djokovic came through that too, beating Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 in the longest Open Era grand slam final, which went for a gruelling five hours, 53 minutes.

2013 – Hat-trick complete

Djokovic extended his winning streak at the Australian Open to 21 matches with a third straight title.

He became the first man in the Open Era to win a hat-trick of titles in Melbourne.

Djokovic took five hours to get past Stan Wawrinka – the man who would break his run the following year – in the fourth round before again beating Murray in a final.

 

2015 – Another Wawrinka marathon, another Murray final

Fernando Verdasco and Milos Raonic were unable to stop Djokovic and, this time, Wawrinka failed too.

Djokovic beat the Swiss star in a five-set semi-final before a familiar face stood between him and another title.

Murray managed to split the first two sets, but Djokovic ran away with it from there 6-3 6-0 for a fifth crown.

2016 ­– Record equalled after Simon scare

It was the fourth round that proved to be the biggest scare in Djokovic's bid for a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title.

But he got through another gruelling five-setter, this time against French 14th seed Gilles Simon.

Kei Nishikori, Federer and Murray were unable to stop him from there as Djokovic joined Roy Emerson on six Australian Open crowns.
 

2019 – Record claimed in flawless fashion

For a six-time champion and the world number one, this seemed like a quiet run by Djokovic.

He dispatched of up-and-comers Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, spent less than an hour on court with an exhausted Nishikori and was almost flawless against Lucas Pouille.

Only Nadal stood between him and a record seventh Australian Open title in a repeat of their epic 2012 final.

And Djokovic may have saved his best performance for the final, dismantling Nadal in just over two hours.

2020 – Thiem test survived to close in on Federer, Nadal

Djokovic entered the tournament on the back of six impressive singles wins at the ATP Cup.

After a brief first-round hiccup against Jan-Lennard Struff, Djokovic cruised into the quarter-finals.

He continued his dominance of Milos Raonic with a 10th win in as many meetings with the Canadian and then brushed a hurt Federer aside.

Thiem, playing his third major final, was a huge test, but Djokovic survived after almost four hours to extend his record in Melbourne. It was his 17th major title, moving closer to the tallies of Federer (20) and Nadal (19), as he reclaimed the number one ranking.

Novak Djokovic clinched a 17th grand slam title and record-extending eighth Australian Open crown with an epic five-set win over Dominic Thiem.

The Serbian required an impressive comeback against Thiem, continuing his dominance in Melbourne courtesy of an enthralling 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory after three hours, 59 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Djokovic has claimed the title every time he has reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and he maintained that record while closing in on Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) for most majors won by a man.

The 32-year-old also joined that duo as the only men to win a single major eight times, with Nadal (12 French Open crowns) and Federer (eight at Wimbledon) having also achieved that feat.

Djokovic had been frustrated, particularly after receiving two time violations in a matter of points in the second set and he also called for the trainer in the third, but he found the right answers against an opponent who had beaten him in four of their previous five meetings.

Thiem fell short of a maiden grand slam title, losing a third major final but first away from Roland Garros, as the Austrian 26-year-old faltered late.

The duo exchanged breaks to start, but it was Thiem enduring the greater struggles on serve.

While he battled hard – saving one set point with his aggression in the 10th game – a double fault handed Djokovic the opener.

Needing a response, Thiem found a break to lead 2-1 in the second set, aided by a pair of double faults from a frustrated Djokovic.

Thiem saved a break point in the sixth game, but gave up his advantage in the eighth, when he pulled the trigger on a backhand down the line too early with a shot that was becoming a problem rather than a weapon.

But Thiem broke again in the next game, during which Djokovic received two time violations, served a double fault and committed two sloppy errors before directing words at the chair umpire at the change of ends, none of which distracted his opponent from closing out the set.

Thiem had started to assume control from the baseline, and he took the Djokovic serve in the opening game of the third after the Serbian pushed a backhand down the line wide before incredibly falling 4-0 behind.

Djokovic called the trainer at 4-1 down but there was no denying Thiem, who served out the set while showing some nerves before his opponent left the court.

"Nole! Nole! Nole!" chants rang out early in the fourth set among what was largely a pro-Thiem crowd inside Rod Laver Arena and Djokovic responded, capitalising on a sloppy game from the fifth seed to break for 5-3 before forcing a decider.

Thiem missed two forehands to give up a break to Djokovic in the third game of the fifth set before wasting two break points in the fourth.

He managed a gritty hold to stay in the match in the seventh game but was unable to deny Djokovic, who had no trouble serving it out.

Novak Djokovic is aiming to win a fifth grand slam in seven at the Australian Open on Sunday.

The Serbian faces Dominic Thiem in the final in Melbourne looking to extend his record to eight titles in the tournament and repeat his 2019 triumph.

It is continuing another dominant period for the 16-time grand slam champion, a spell which began at Wimbledon in 2018.

But how does his recent run of success compare to his previous triumphs, as well as those enjoyed by his 'Big Three' rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal?

Federer – 8 in 10, 2005-07

The Swiss great was almost unstoppable for a period beginning at Wimbledon in 2005. From 2003 at the All England Club to the 2010 Australian Open, Federer incredibly won 16 of 27 grand slams, with a couple of separate utterly stunning runs. From Wimbledon 2005 to the 2007 US Open, Federer won eight of the 10 majors and was beaten in the finals of the other two. Only Nadal at the French Open (2006 and 2007) could deny Federer, who enjoyed wins over Andy Roddick (twice), Andre Agassi, Marcos Baghdatis, Nadal (twice), Fernando Gonzalez and Djokovic in deciders during that period. Starting at Wimbledon 2004, Federer also won 10 of 14 majors, but he has just four grand slams since 2011.

Djokovic – 6 in 8, 2014-16

The Serbian star began to make the most of his opportunities, starting from midway through 2014. Heading into that tournament, Djokovic had made 13 grand slam finals but won just six. However, since the Wimbledon final six years ago, he has won 10 major deciders and lost just two. A thrilling five-set final against Federer started the run before he reclaimed his Australian Open title. Stan Wawrinka upset him in the decider in Paris before the beginning of the 'Nole Slam', Djokovic winning four straight majors to hold every grand slam trophy simultaneously. A shock third-round exit to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon in 2016 ended a 30-match winning run at majors for Djokovic, who would have to wait until 2018 for his next grand slam title.

Nadal – 4 in 5, 2010-11

In an extraordinary career, Nadal has won just one Australian Open and two Wimbledon titles, impacting his runs. The Spaniard's best year in terms of major titles was 2010, when he claimed three before adding another at Roland Garros in 2011. Stunned by Robin Soderling in his first French Open loss in 2009, Nadal brushed the Swede aside in the final the following year, kick-starting a run of three straight major wins. Tomas Berdych and Djokovic were beaten in the Wimbledon and US Open deciders respectively, but his bid to hold all four at once was ended in the quarter-finals in Melbourne, where he suffered a hamstring injury and fell to David Ferrer. But, back in Paris, Nadal won a sixth French Open crown.

Novak Djokovic will take what is considered a major advantage into his Australian Open final against Dominic Thiem – an extra day's rest.

The 16-time grand slam champion brushed aside Roger Federer in straight sets on Thursday, a day before Thiem edged out Alexander Zverev in four.

At 32, Djokovic is six years older than Thiem, a player he holds a 6-4 win-loss record over but has lost to in four of their past five meetings.

But an extra day off has seemingly had little impact on the result of Sunday's final, especially in the past decade, when the player with more rest has won five and lost as many deciders.

"I have two days of no match right now, which actually is really good," Serbia's Djokovic said after his win over a hurting Federer.

"It gives me more time to recuperate and gather all the necessary energy for the finals."

Thiem, unsurprisingly, saw the benefits of not having the extra day despite coming off two tough wins over world number one Rafael Nadal and Zverev.

"There are disadvantages but also advantages. I think it's also a little bit of a challenge to have all the time one day off and all of a sudden two," he said.

"Of course, I have less time to regenerate, but with all the adrenaline and everything, it's going to be fine.

"I played two super intense matches against Rafa and now against Sascha [Zverev]. Of course, I'm going to feel it, especially [on Saturday]. But I'm going to have great treatment, easy hit [on Saturday], and then of course try everything to be 100 per cent on Sunday night."

Since 2010, the men with extra rest have won five and lost five finals. Djokovic has won his three, but he has also won all seven of his deciders in Melbourne.

Going further back and the win-loss record for men who played their semi-final a day earlier since 2000 is 11-9, barely an advantage.

Thiem has spent almost six hours longer on court than Djokovic, but in the prime of his career and eyeing a maiden grand slam title, having a day's less rest should seemingly have little impact.

Entering Australian Open final with an extra day's rest since 2000
2019: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2018: Marin Cilic (lost against Roger Federer)
2017: Roger Federer (won against Rafael Nadal)
2016: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2015: Andy Murray (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2014: Stan Wawrinka (won against Rafael Nadal)
2013: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2012: Rafael Nadal (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2011: Novak Djokovic (won against Andy Murray)
2010: Andy Murray (lost against Roger Federer)
2009: Roger Federer (lost against Rafael Nadal)
2008: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (lost against Novak Djokovic)
2007: Roger Federer (won against Fernando Gonzalez)
2006: Marcos Baghdatis (lost against Roger Federer)
2005: Marat Safin (won against Lleyton Hewitt)
2004: Marat Safin (lost against Roger Federer)
2003: Andre Agassi (won against Rainer Schuttler)
2002: Thomas Johansson (won against Marat Safin)
2001: Andre Agassi (won against Arnaud Clement)
2000: Andre Agassi (won against Yevgeny Kafelnikov)
Wins: 11 Losses: 9

Dominic Thiem has shown the highly rated 'Next Gen' the way, though the rest of the Australian Open finalist's generation provides a cautionary tale.

Thiem's rise continues in Melbourne, where he will face Novak Djokovic in the men's singles final on Sunday in his third major decider and first away from the French Open.

But the 26-year-old Austrian sits in a generation alone; more established than the improving 'Next Gen' but still – like all others – chasing Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur can learn from Thiem's progression, while Daniil Medvedev, 23, has quickly proven himself.

Zverev, beaten by good friend Thiem in the semi-finals, admitted this week he had been impatient in his pursuit of grand slam success. The German is the world number seven and Melbourne shaped as a breakthrough, a new approach helping the 22-year-old into a first major semi.

Thiem only won his first Tour title at 21, with his next three also coming at ATP 250 level before he took another step by clinching the Mexican Open in February 2016.

A reputation on clay being quickly established, he reached a semi-final at Roland Garros later that year – and another in 2017. Thiem shapes as the successor to Nadal's immovable crown in Paris, falling to the Spanish great in the past two finals.

It has been steady growth, although the improvement on hard courts has been particularly impressive, including a title at Indian Wells last year.

Patiently working, Thiem has risen to be being one win away from a breakthrough major, and his journey can be looked at by what is a supremely talented up-and-coming group.

Zverev won the 2018 ATP Finals, but it is last year's event in London that is set to be looked upon as the moment the 'Next Gen' truly made their move. Tsitsipas and Thiem played out a thrilling final, the former having beaten Federer in a semi and the latter posted wins over Djokovic and the Swiss great in the group stage.

Thiem is the only 26-year-old in the world's top 50 and just one of five in the top 100, joined by Juan Ignacio Londero, Hugo Dellien, Roberto Carballes Baena and Dennis Novak.

He was once a world number two junior and reached the 2011 French Open boys' singles final, falling to Bjorn Fratangelo.

A quick look at that year's boys' singles quarter-finals at all grand slams makes for interesting viewing. Kyle Edmund and Lucas Pouille have made Australian Open semi-finals, Jiri Vesely once reached 35th in the world, Carballes Baena is among them, as is the injury-plagued Jason Kubler and doubles star Mate Pavic.

Before Thiem takes to the court to face Djokovic, Luke Saville – a two-time slam winner as a junior – will play the men's doubles final. A highly rated junior, Saville beat Thiem in the juniors at the Australian Open in 2011 but has struggled to take the step up.

The current 'Next Gen' have already been more impressive and now they have Thiem to follow.

Novak Djokovic will contest his eighth Australian Open final as he eyes a record-extending Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in Melbourne on Sunday.

Defending champion Djokovic faces fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the men's decider after seeing off 20-time grand slam winner Roger Federer.

Thiem – who stunned world number one Rafael Nadal in the previous round – has won the previous two meetings with Djokovic, though he is preparing for his first Australian Open final.

We take a closer look at Djokovic ahead of his showdown with two-time slam runner-up Thiem.

 

Form and results

Djokovic has progressed steadily since dropping a set against tenacious German Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round. The Serbian star has only lost one set for the entire tournament, barely raising a sweat against Tatsuma Ito, Yoshihito Nishioka, Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. Djokovic survived an onslaught against Federer, who raced out to a 4-1 lead and 40 love in warm conditions on Thursday. The second seed eventually eased past the injury-affected Swiss maestro on Rod Laver Arena.

R1: bt Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 2-6 6-1
R2: bt Ito 6-1 6-4 6-2
R3: bt Nishioka 6-3 6-2 6-2
R4: bt Schwartzman [14] 6-3 6-4 6-4
QF: bt Raonic [32] 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-1)
SF: bt Federer [3] 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3

Next up

A surprise finalist, Thiem looms as a big threat to Djokovic. Up until this year, Thiem had never progressed beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park and was eliminated in the second round in 2019. However, the 26-year-old – who boasts one of the best backhands in the sport – has dazzled in Melbourne, where he slayed 19-time major champion Nadal in a thrilling quarter-final. Thiem, who has lost consecutive French Open finals to Nadal, followed that up with a 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) win over seventh seed Alexander Zverev in sweltering temperatures on Friday. Trailing 6-4 on head-to-head, Thiem has won four of the past five encounters with Djokovic – including twice last year at the ATP Finals and French Open.

What they said

"Dominic won our last match we played against each other, a close one in London. He played a terrific match against Rafa. I watched that. Definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is. It seems like he's improved his game a lot on hardcourts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces. The clay of course being his favourite surface. But winning Indian Wells I think last year, beating Roger in the finals, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well."

Dominic Thiem hopes to find the perfect balance between attack and defence against Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, but accepts it is a fine line.

Thiem booked his spot in a third grand slam final and first in Melbourne by edging Alexander Zverev 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

The Austrian will face seven-time champion Djokovic in Sunday's final, and goes into that clash on the back of four wins in his past five meetings with the Serbian great.

Thiem, 26, said controlled aggression was a key when taking on Djokovic, who will be playing a record eighth Australian Open men's singles final.

"I think I have to keep a good balance. Of course, I have to risk a lot. I have to go for many shots," he told a news conference.

"At the same time, of course, not too much. That's a very thin line. In the last match against him, hit that line perfectly in London [at the ATP Finals].

"Of course, going to take a look at that match, how I played, and try to repeat it.

"But for sure he's the favourite. I mean, he won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one. I'm feeling good on the court. I'm playing great tennis, so try to be at my absolutely best on Sunday."

A two-time French Open runner-up, Thiem's run to the final in Melbourne has come as a surprise, having previously never been beyond the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Considered a bigger threat on clay, Thiem said winning the Indian Wells Masters last year had boosted his confidence.

"First of all, Indian Wells, that victory gave me so much relief and so much confidence because finally got my first Masters 1000 title on hard court," he said.

"I mean, there in Indian Wells in the desert, it's pretty similar to clay. It's perfect for my game, balls bouncing so high.

"Then I think last fall in Asia, then in the indoor season, I made this huge step forward. I really developed my game I think in the right direction.

"I got more aggressive on hard courts, started to serve smarter and to return better. That also gave me a lot of confidence for this new year and for Australia because I told myself, 'If I can be in the finals in London, the ATP Finals, why not as well in a hard-court slam?' Since then I know that I'm also playing very well on the faster surfaces."

Alexander Zverev rued a missed opportunity after falling to Dominic Thiem in their Australian Open semi-final on Friday.

Zverev fell short in his maiden grand slam semi, losing 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) to his good friend Thiem in a thriller on Rod Laver Arena.

After taking the first set, the German had two chances to break back when Thiem was serving for the second and squandered two set points in the third.

Zverev, who converted five of 14 break points, lamented a missed chance in Melbourne.

"I had a lot of chances. I had 14 break points. That should be plenty," he told a news conference.

"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. Yeah, just got to execute better next time.

"But credit to him. He's playing unbelievable tennis right now."

After back-to-back quarter-final appearances at the French Open, Zverev's run to the semis was significant with the world number seven touted as a future grand slam winner.

The 22-year-old, who has won 11 ATP Tour titles, said a different approach to the major had paid off.

"It was a great tournament, great match today. I don't know. I came to this tournament different," Zverev said.

"I didn't play my best. I went step by step, match by match. Usually I didn't do that in grand slams.

"Maybe I can take that away, but right now I'm still a little bit disappointed about the match."

Dominic Thiem joked his stomach was "rebelling" as he closed in on victory against Alexander Zverev in their Australian Open semi-final.

Thiem appeared to be unwell for a brief period in his 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) victory over Zverev on Rod Laver Arena on Friday.

The Austrian moved into his first final in Melbourne and third at a major, eyeing his maiden grand slam title when he faces Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Thiem, 26, put his stomach issues down to nerves with the finish line in sight.

"I was feeling nerves, I think. I was putting so much energy, so much effort in so my stomach was not ready for that," he said in an on-court interview.

"I think it was rebelling a little bit, but all good.

"Sometimes it happens when they are really close and tough matches, but always good it went away again."

Thiem mixed 43 winners with 40 unforced errors, overcoming a sloppy start to get past his good friend Zverev.

The two-time French Open runner-up was delighted with his win, saying it was an ideal start to 2020.

"It was an unreal match again, two tie-breaks, so tough and so close," Thiem said after his seventh win in nine meetings with Zverev.

"It was almost impossible to break him, he had such a high percentage on his first serve.

"But the Australian Open final is absolutely unreal and what a start to the season so far."

Dominic Thiem set up an Australian Open final showdown with Novak Djokovic courtesy of a thrilling four-set win over Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The Austrian moved into his third grand slam decider by getting past Zverev 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) in an entertaining semi-final played almost entirely under the Rod Laver Arena roof.

Thiem, 26, needed three hours and 42 minutes to overcome Zverev and reach a first major final away from the French Open.

Playing his first semi-final at a grand slam, Zverev, 22, put up a huge fight in a gruelling baseline battle in warm conditions.

However, the German fell to a seventh loss in nine meetings with his good friend Thiem, who backed up his outstanding last-eight win over world number one Rafael Nadal to set up a clash with Djokovic on Sunday.

Showing some signs of early nerves, the players traded breaks in the opening two games as they tried to settle from the baseline.

The Rod Laver Arena roof was closed during the fourth game as rain fell in Melbourne, before Zverev – who had made the steadier start – took a 4-3 lead when Thiem put a forehand wide on break point.

Zverev impressively consolidated to love and broke again to take the opener, Thiem sending a backhand halfway up the net for his 13th unforced error of the set.

It was Zverev who was wayward to begin the second set, although he would initially recover from a break down in part thanks to a ripping cross-court return winner in the sixth game.

However, Thiem restored his advantage to go 4-3 up in a game that included a fortunate net cord before closing out the set in a 10th game that brought the crowd to life.

Zverev returned a Thiem overhead with one of his own for a winner and the Austrian missed another overhead into the bottom of the net, but he would level the match after saving two break points.

The pair had spectators on their feet again in the fifth game of the third set – briefly delayed due to an issue with the lights – after a thrilling point that featured a diving volley from Thiem, who was up by a break and talked his friend into a successful challenge that led to a tough hold.

He may have been regretting that decision when Zverev broke back in the following game and twice held set points in the 10th, both saved by Thiem winners, one from either wing.

Zverev, who had pledged to donate his entire prize money to the Australian bushfire relief fund if he won the tournament, served well on the way to a tie-break, but it was dominated by Thiem's brilliance. He began it with a delicate half-volley before firing two winners to end it, taking a two-sets-to-one lead despite appearing to suggest he was feeling unwell.

Both players held serve relatively comfortably through the fourth set as another tie-break followed.

Zverev then produced a nervy double fault, the second serve missing by a long way, early in the tie-break and a wild overhead miss, Thiem's aggression eventually paying off to book his spot in the final.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN  
Thiem [5] bt Zverev [7] 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4)

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   
Thiem – 43/40
Zverev – 42/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   
Thiem – 10/4
Zverev – 16/3

BREAK POINTS WON   
Thiem – 4/9
Zverev – 5/14

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE   
Thiem – 67
Zverev – 81

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE   
Thiem – 77/40
Zverev – 68/50

TOTAL POINTS   
Thiem – 138
Zverev – 133

Novak Djokovic is satisfied with his form heading into a record eighth Australian Open men's singles final after brushing past Roger Federer.

The Serbian 16-time grand slam champion recovered from a slow start to beat Federer 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 in their semi-final on Thursday.

Djokovic dropped a set in the opening round but has cruised through since, including beating a hurting Federer in their 50th meeting.

The seven-time champion in Melbourne has already won 12 singles matches this year and is happy with where his game is at ahead of facing either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev in the final on Sunday.

"Yes, I'm pleased with the way I've been feeling and playing," Djokovic told a news conference.

"I thought the ATP Cup went really well for me, I got a lot of hours spent on the court, singles and doubles. It was a great lead-up for the Australian Open.

"Obviously I got a lot of positive energy from that competition. I've dropped only one set so far up to the finals. I have two days of no match right now, which actually is really good. It gives me more time to recuperate and gather all the necessary energy for the finals."

While he savoured Serbia's ATP Cup triumph and has dominated in Melbourne, Djokovic will face a first-time Australian Open finalist in either Thiem or Zverev.

By reaching the final for an eighth time, Djokovic now holds the outright record for the most visits to the title match in the Open era, having previously been tied with Federer on seven appearances.

He holds positive head-to-head records against both Thiem (6-4) and Zverev (3-2), but is wary of the duo.

"Well, Dominic won our last match when we played against each other, a close one in London [at the ATP Finals in November]. He played a terrific match against Rafa [Nadal] last night. I watched that," Djokovic said.

"[He is] definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is. It seems like he's improved his game a lot on hard-courts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces, the clay of course being his favourite surface.

"But winning Indian Wells I think last year, beating Roger in the finals, that probably gave him a lot of confidence that he can win big tournaments on other surfaces, as well.

"Alex didn't start the year very well. I watched his matches. I practised with him in Brisbane during ATP Cup. He wasn't feeling his best on the court, not much confidence.

"It's impressive with the way he has been playing so far in this tournament, building his game, raising the level of tennis that he's been playing. It's his first semi-final at a grand slam in his career, so I'm sure that he is motivated, he's pumped to get at least a step further. It's going to be really a good match to watch."

Roger Federer felt he had just a "three per cent chance" of winning going into his Australian Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic after battling injury.

The Swiss great made a strong start before falling to a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 6-3 loss to Djokovic, who reached a record eighth final in Melbourne on Thursday.

Federer battled a groin injury during an incredible quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren and took a medical timeout after the first set of his loss to Djokovic.

The 20-time grand slam champion admitted he felt his chances of victory over Djokovic, who has won 27 of their 50 meetings, were slim.

"Look, overall, at the end of the day I guess I'm very happy. I've got to be happy with what I achieved," Federer told a news conference.

"It was the maximum to go to get at this tournament, especially after the [John] Millman and the Sandgren match.

"Today was horrible, to go through what I did. Nice entrance, nice send off, and in between is one to forget because you know you have a three per cent chance to win. You know, got to go for it. You never know.

"But once you can see it coming, that it's not going to work anymore, it's tough. No, look, at the end of the day I'm very happy.

"I think I overall played all right. I know I can play better. At the same time, I also know I can play much worse. With no tournaments beforehand, I think it's a very, very good result."

Federer was optimistic over the injury, saying he wanted to play in a scheduled exhibition match against Rafael Nadal in South Africa on February 7.

A six-time champion in Melbourne, Federer, 38, was unsurprisingly unwilling to guarantee he would be back at the Australian Open, but he was hopeful.

"No idea. Same as last year. You never know what the future holds," he said.

"But especially my age, you don't know. I'm confident. I'm happy how I'm feeling, to be honest. I got through a good, nice training block. No plans to retire.

"From that standpoint, we'll see how the year goes, how everything is with the family. We'll go from there. Of course, I hope to be back."

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