Austria’s Dominic Thiem described his stunning victory over Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals on Tuesday as probably the best match he has ever played.
The 26-year-old world number five blazed 50 winners, many of them jaw-dropping backhands, to beat the five-time champion 6-7(5) 6-3 7-6(5) in front of a spellbound O2 arena crowd.
He battled back from 4-1 down in the final set tiebreak to claim a fourth win in five against the 16-time Grand Slam champion and has already booked his semi-final spot.
“Probably the best match I ever played,” he said. “It was a real classic and epic match which will happen from time to time at these big tournaments.
“It had everything that a match like this needs. He was up; I was up. He was playing amazing points; I was playing amazing points. It’s only about luck, and it was a little bit more on my side today in the third-set tiebreak.”
Djokovic played his full part in an exhilarating contest but could not quite match Thiem’s firepower.
Thiem also made 44 unforced errors but it would be churlish to criticise that tally when he was playing such risky tennis.
Having never got past the group stage in three previous appearances at the tournament, he has now beaten Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back to book his place in the semi-finals and appears to be the man in form.
“I knew that I had to play like this to beat him. Against everybody who qualified for this tournament here, there is a special effort necessary to win,” said the 26-year-old.
“I did it against Roger, and I did it also today. Probably Novak is the best player in the world right now, so I had to do something outstanding, something unusual, and that’s what I did.
“I mean, I was hitting really, really hard.”
Djokovic, who faces a decisive clash with Federer on Thursday with the loser guaranteed an early exit, was generous in his praise of Thiem.
“I know that he can play in a high level, but tonight was just phenomenal,” he said. “He just played very courageous tennis and (was) just smacking the ball. He went for broke.”