Finally, here is Kevin Mitchell on the first day of action at the O2 Arena. That was very fun and we’ll do it all over again tomorrow when Stefanos Tsitsipas faces Daniil Medvedev and then Rafael Nadal squares up to Alexander Zverev. Until then.
Few scorelines are quite as revealing as 7-5 7-5. It shows that both players were competing at a similar level throughout the entire match and they twice stood a game away from a tiebreak, but while Thiem responded so well to just about every one of the many tight situations he found himself in, Federer’s game simply didn’t stand up to the pressure.
This seems like another step forward for Thiem in a year filled with them. He was 0-3 in his opening match at the ATP Finals in previous years and 3-6 overall. There is still a long way to go, but he has given himself a great opportunity to survive the group stages for the first time in his career and he looks determined to do so.
For Federer, losing in straight sets could prove extremely costly. But it should be noted that he was absolutely abysmal in his first match against Nishikori last year yet still made it into the semi-final. There are more twists to come so let’s see what the Swiss still has up his sleeve.
Mr Dominic Thiem in his on-court interview:
It was a great performance. My first opening win here at the finals. It’s every single time overwhelming and breathtaking to enter this arena, especially if it’s packed like that. I think we had a good and close match and of course it’s always something special to beat Roger as he is an absolute legend. I love to play against him and learn a lot, so thanks a lot.
Well it not because of that [his 5-2 record] that I love to play him, it’s because it’s amazing to play against probably the best player of all time, to play against a real legend like that. But, yeah, luckily I have a pretty good record against him and I try to play positive against him all the time [laughing].
These games where I have to serve out is always a struggle. Especially that you don’t get any presence from him. He will put every return in he can, play all the rallies and, of course, play a little bit on nerves. It’s not every day to play in this arena against Roger so I’m very happy that I pulled it through in the last game.
Dominic Thiem defeats Roger Federer 7-5 7-5
A brilliant win for Thiem, who played so well under pressure today. He was clearly feeling it there, with a couple of loose errors and then a routine backhand slice into the net bringing up break point. But Thiem eradicated the break point with a big first serve.
After netting a forehand on his first match point and eventually finding himself facing a second break point, Thiem did what he has done all day and continued to attack with his back to the wall. From break point down, he crushed two brilliant forehand winners before sealing the match with a service winner. A sublime performance.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 5-6* Dominic Thiem: Dominic Thiem breaks! The level has been quite similar from both players, but Thiem has played so much better under pressure today. After a missed backhand from Federer to open the game, Thiem saw his opportunity and blasted through it, crushing a forehand to bring up 0-30. A bad backhand volley from Federer followed by a netted forehand and that’s that. Thiem to serve for the match.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 *5-5 Dominic Thiem: After landing 56% of first serves in the opening set, Dominic Thiem is serving at 70% so far in the second set. The scoreline reflects it as he pieces together a solid hold to 15, sealed with a monstrous 130mph first serve down the T.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 5-4* Dominic Thiem: As Thiem continues to hold firm in tight situation, Federer once again fails to close another lead. After speeding to 40-15, Federer sprayed a forehand long and then floated a backhand out after a solid return from Thiem. The chance was there for Thiem after a missed first serve from the Swiss at deuce, but Thiem blasted his return well long. Federer held with a dynamic move to the net, closed out with a great backhand volley. Tense moments in the O2 Arena.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 *4-4 Dominic Thiem: Once again, Dominic Thiem faces 30-30 as Federer piles on the pressure and once again the Austrian finds a first serve and lasers an inside-out forehand winner into the corner. On the game point, Federer was absolutely crushing the ball, but Thiem held firm on top of the baseline and it was eventually Federer who dumped a forehand into the net. The confidence is quite stunning.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 4-3* Dominic Thiem: What a messy game! Federer led 40-0 and looked well on his way to another easy hold, but then Thiem connected with a great return followed by a booming forehand down the line. On the final game point, Federer had quite an easy smash after some great defence from Thiem, but he only went and dumped it into the net! However, Federer continues to serve well and eventually he escaped by sealing the hold with a big serve and forehand combo. The pressure is building.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 *3-3 Dominic Thiem: It is such a delight to see Dominic Thiem oozing with confidence on an indoor hardcourt. Very few of his holds have been easy in this set, but he is coming up with gems whenever his back is to the wall. At 30-30, he connects with a classic sliding wide serve followed by a forehand down-the-line winner. He holds with more booming forehands.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 3-2* Dominic Thiem: One of Federer’s many underrated strengths is his ability to shrug off missed break points and respond with great serving. He does so once again, holding to 15 with ease. Federer is serving 81% of first serves in this second set. Once again, he is in a rhythm, but will it last?
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 *2-2 Dominic Thiem: An absolutely incredible hold from Domninic Thiem to stay in touch. Federer finally made a move in a return game, crunching a backhand down the line to set up break point. After a long, long break point in which Federer defended valiantly then found a brilliantly angled forehand, Thiem connected with a stunning forehand down the line on the run to scupper the danger. After some big serving, Thiem held by following a booming forehand into the net and slamming down a smash. Another mini-battle goes in the Austrian’s favour.
A question from Tony: “I wonder if Dom has been inspired by the exploits of his partner – ‘kiki’ – down in Perth? “
You would hope so! That was an inspirational performance from Kiki Mladenovic this morning, who defeated number one Ashleigh Barty and captured all three rubbers for France to seal their 3-2 win over Australia in the Fed Cup final. Even I’m inspired.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 2-1* Dominic Thiem: Some beautiful points from both players here, with Thiem chasing down every last ball, throwing up a great defensive lob and eventually finishing the point at the net to bring up 15-30. But Federer scuppers the danger with some great serving and a loud cry of “let’s go!” A great forehand winner by Federer to seal a very good hold.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 *1-1 Dominic Thiem: Thiem still isn’t serving at his highest level and he opened the door for Federer by missing a first serve 30-30. Federer dumped the return into the net, then sprayed a forehand wide to helpfully hand the Austrian a hold. That was bad.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 1-0* Dominic Thiem: Federer is right back to his dominant serving, capturing his first hold to 15. Five first serves in, four points won, sealed with a big service winner down the T. Clearly, Federer is generally serving well today but he cannot afford any more loose service games.
First set: Roger Federer 5-7 Dominic Thiem: Dominic Thiem holds firm to take the first set! Much like Federer, Thiem stared down a daunting 30-30 situation on his serve. Unlike Federer, rather than balking, Thiem stepped in and scuppered the danger with a brilliant forehand down the line winner. He took the set with more blistering forehands.
Despite some solid serving from Federer throughout the middle of the set, Thiem started the match the more fearless player and he ended the set in the same manner. Nothing less will suffice at this event.
First set: Roger Federer 6-5* Dominic Thiem: Thiem breaks! After streaming through his last four service games and finding such a great rhythm, it’s Federer who blinks first. Federer fought back well from 0-30 to 30-30, but then he badly mistimed a forehand and shanked a backhand long. One bad service game and now Thiem has the chance to serve out the set.
First set: Roger Federer *5-5 Dominic Thiem: Another solid hold from Thiem, who is starting to find his first serve again. He seals a hold to 30 with a big service winner and puts the pressure straight back on the Swiss’s shoulders.
First set: Roger Federer 5-4* Dominic Thiem: Federer responds with another quick hold of his own. He is still serving at an extremely impressive 75% of first serves and backing it up by flitting to the net whenever the opportunity arises. Both men look so confident behind their serves at the moment, but we’re moving into the business end now. Who will blink?
First set: Roger Federer *4-4 Dominic Thiem: Thiem still won’t be happy with his first serve percentage (48%), but he will be satisfied with how swiftly he has navigated his last few holds really well and continues to step in and fire missiles. This is high quality tennis from both now and the games are moving fast.
First set: Roger Federer 4-3* Dominic Thiem: Federer pieces together another solid hold to keep himself ahead. Some beautiful play from him; he wrestled control of the first point before finishing the long exchange with a forehand winner, then he slipped into the net and placed a great backhand volley winner. He held with a forehand drive volley winner. Federer is moving forward whenever he can.
First set: Roger Federer *3-3 Dominic Thiem: Good work from Thiem to break the run of three games for Federer with a solid hold. He opened with a booming crosscourt forehand and held with another big forehand. Despite the errors, he’s still stepping into the court and taking the initiative whenever he can.
First set: Roger Federer 3-2* Dominic Thiem: While Thiem began to miss too many first serves in his previous service game, Federer seems to be finding his rhythm on serve. He pieces together a second really solid service game behind plenty of first serves. It’s early days, but Federer’s first serve percentage is 73%. Thiem’s? 43%.
First set: Roger Federer *2-2 Dominic Thiem: That break did not last very long, did it? Thiem is determined to play this match entirely on his terms, but after a couple of early bruising forehands, he sprays a couple of groundstrokes. Great work from Federer to take the first break point with a solid backhand down the line. We’re back on serve.
First set: Roger Federer 1-2* Dominic Thiem: Federer gets on the board with a trademark love service game sealed with an ace. It only lasted about a minute.
First set: Roger Federer 0-2* Dominic Thiem: Thiem consolidates his break with aplomb, opening his service game with a service winner and closing it with a big forehand after a first serve. The Austrian’s first serve is already purring and he is finding his forehand behind it. He is here to play.
First set: Roger Federer 0-1* Dominic Thiem: That was some start from Dominic Thiem. After Federer nets a simple backhand volley, Thiem slots a brilliant forehand crosscourt winner on the run before bringing up break point by forcing an error with a great, deep forehand return. Federer gallantly saves two break points, but he shanks a forehand wide on the third. If you elect to serve first, you better hold.
Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem are out on the court. Federer won the toss and elected to serve. All out attack.
In the doubles this evening, second seeds Łukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo edged out Ivan Dodig and Filip Polášek 4-6 6-4 10-5.
Earlier today, Britain’s Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram of the United States fell 6-3 6-4 to Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus.
Do check out Kevin Mitchell on Djokovic’s swift victory earlier today.
Novak Djokovic will be watching this match keenly. Here is the Serb’s assessment of Thiem earlier today:
I think he was mentioning earlier in the week that this has been probably his best season, winning at home in Vienna, and of course that was a very important win for him. Indian Wells. We know how good of a player he is on clay. He’s been proving that he can play equally well on other surfaces.
He’s already established top-5, top-10 player. We don’t need to talk about his qualities. Quality is great. His dedication and professionalism and hard work ethics is fantastic, and he’s a really nice guy. So all positive things about him.
His coach, Nico Massu, that I have known for many years and I have played against him, as well, they are a great team and they deserve to be here. It’s going to be interesting to see how he plays against Federer tonight, and then we’ll see after that.
So, who will win? It’s a tough question. Both players arrive with reason to believe that this meeting should favour them. Thiem swaggers into this match-up after extending the head-to-head to 4-2 with two wins over the Swiss this year. Thiem produced a magnificent performance to defeat Federer on hard in the Indian Wells final, lasering winners at will from a set down to clinch perhaps the biggest win of his career.
The most striking part of their recent battles has been how thoroughly Thiem has dominated the baseline rallies between them, often leaving Federer with little choice but to serve well and attempt to disrupt Thiem’s rhythm while on the back foot. Thiem has shown time and time again that, when he is on, his sheer power and weight of shot is world class.
On the other hand, the pair played here last year and Federer easily dealt with Thiem 6-2 6-3. Although Thiem has improved significantly and has planned his schedule more intelligently this year, the fast court should help Federer’s serve and his first strike tennis. It should be a significant challenge for Thiem, who prefers slower courts that give him more time to set up his big swings.
This match will likely be pivotal in deciding who qualifies for the semi-finals, so let’s see who steps up tonight.
Hello! Welcome to our coverage from day one of the ATP Tour Finals in London where the round robin group stage is just kicking off. Earlier in Group Borg, Novak Djokovic produced a statement performance by viciously dismantling debutante Matteo Berrettini 6-2 6-1 to open up the tournament. The players say that the courts are fast and the balls are bouncing low, and it certainly looks that way. It was a measure of Djokovic’s incredible returning that he broke the Italian’s booming serve 5 times in a row this afternoon. He begins as tournament favourite for a very good reason.
This evening, attention turns to a huge match in the stacked Group Borg between Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. Both players arrive with perfect preparation. Thiem has enjoyed the best season of his career, reaching his second Roland Garros final, winning his first Masters 1000 title and capturing five titles in total. Most importantly, he has established himself as a top player across all surfaces. His new partnership with former Olympic champion Nicolas Massu has been fruitful and they have worked hard on complimenting his heavy hitting with more variety.
Federer endured one of the greatest heartbreaks of his career this year, falling to Novak Djokovic after holding double match point in their epic Wimbledon final. But beyond that, this has been another strong year for a 38 year old who improbably continues to compete with the best. A six time Tour Finals champ, Federer loves this event in general and he loves it even more with the faster courts this year. He won his fourth title of the year a few weeks ago by destroying the field at home in Basel so he comes into London both fresh and in great form.