ATP

Classy Thiem beats Federer on opening night in London

By Sports Desk November 10, 2019

Dominic Thiem continued his dominance of Roger Federer this year with a straight-sets victory on the opening day of the ATP Finals.

Thiem had beaten the 20-time grand slam champion twice this season and completed the hat-trick with a 7-5 7-5 victory at the O2 Arena on Sunday.

The fifth-seeded Thiem has not reached the semi-finals in his three previous appearances in London, but made a confident start after Novak Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini in the opening Group Bjorn Borg match.

Thiem served and returned superbly, improving his record against Federer to five victories and two defeats as he bids to end a fruitful 2019 by claiming a sixth title of the year.

Federer dominated the robin-round encounter between the two in this tournament last year, but was a break down after firing a forehand into the tramlines in the opening game.

The Austrian was pegged back at 2-2 when Federer forced an error with a ferocious backhand, yet the six-time champion was unable to cut out the errors and trailed 6-5 after Thiem pounced on his second serve.

Thiem served out the set with great composure and both players had a packed crowd purring as they showed their athleticism with classy winners at the net early in the second.

Federer fizzed a majestic backhand winner down the line and saved a break point before levelling at 2-2, while Thiem continued to pepper his veteran opponent with powerful, accurate ground strokes.

Thiem drew gasps with a scorching one-handed backhand winner and broke to love to lead 6-5 when Federer netted after a blistering return was arrowed at his feet.

Federer went down with a fight, but the third seed was beaten when he dumped a backhand into the net after seeing two points to get back on serve come and go.

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    Tsitsipas, who took Novak Djokovic to five sets in the French Open semi-finals this month, had come from behind to beat Jan-Lennard Struff in his opener in Austria but was this time on the wrong end of a fightback.

    The Greek edged the first set after a tie-break but failed to convert either of his break points in a 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 reverse.

    It was Dimitrov who prevailed after two hours and 14 minutes for his first top-10 win of the season, securing a quarter-final against Dan Evans.

    "It's never easy to come out of a situation like that," Dimitrov said. "I was focused, but he went for it.

    "In the tie-break a few close calls here and there went his way. [There was] not much else I could have done, I felt. But I kept on believing and kept on doing the right things.

    "I stayed in the match, which I think was the most important thing. He's such a great competitor. You always have to be ready. I was just focusing on the most simple things of the game."

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    Reigning champion Thiem brushed aside Cristian Garin in straight sets, while Rublev was granted a walkover as Jannik Sinner succumbed to a foot injury early in their meeting.

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    Djokovic was not in action, meanwhile, but learned the identity of his Friday quarter-final opponent as Lorenzo Sonego reached the last eight.

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    Djokovic needed to win just two matches in Austria to guarantee he will end the year as world number one, unless Rafael Nadal takes up an unlikely wildcard for the Sofia Open. 

    After defeating Filip Krajinovic in the first round, Djokovic took a vital step towards cementing his name in the record books with a 7-6 (13-11) 6-3 victory over Coric on Wednesday. 

    Pete Sampras is the only previous player to have claimed the year-end number one spot on six occasions, doing so between 1993 and 1998. 

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    Earlier, Stefanos Tsitsipas opted to switch his shoe in the third set of his match with Jan-Lennard Struff, though the third seed ultimately came through the contest to tee up a tie with Grigor Dimitrov. 

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    Novak Djokovic battled to a straight-sets win over compatriot Filip Krajinovic in the opening round of the Vienna Open. 

    The world number one, competing in the Austrian event for the first time since winning it in 2007, saved a set point in a tie-break during the opener on his way to a 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 triumph. 

    He had to work hard as Krajinovic, who lost to Djokovic in last month's Italian Open at the last-16 stage, twice broke serve in a tight opener, helping establish a 5-3 lead at one point. 

    Djokovic hit back in the 10th game to break his opponent for a second time as the opener went to a tie-break, which he edged 8-6 after Krajinovic failed to convert an opportunity when 6-5 up. 

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    Elsewhere on Tuesday, Grigor Dimitrov held off fellow top-20 player Karen Khachanov 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 in a competitive match, while Hubert Hurkacz beat Attila Balazs in straight sets. 

    Dan Evans also advanced to the last 16, where Jurij Rodionov awaits, after Aljaz Bedene withdrew with a thigh complaint when a set down.

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