'Can't believe it': Tennis world stunned by Novak Djokovic 'choke'

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Novak Djokovic, pictured here in action at the ATP Finals.
Novak Djokovic blew a 4-0 lead in the third set tiebreak against Dominic Thiem. Image: Getty

Novak Djokovic has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at the ATP Finals, blowing a 4-0 lead in the third set tiebreak to lose his semi-final against Dominic Thiem.

Thiem came back from the brink of defeat to beat the World No.1 in a gripping last-four clash to reach the final for the second successive year.

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The 27-year-old Austrian appeared to be sliding to defeat when he trailed 0-4 in the third-set tiebreak, but stormed back to claim a 7-5 6-7 (12-10) 7-6 (7-5) victory in just under three hours.

World No.3 Thiem was the better player in the first set, sealing it with an ace after breaking serve at 5-5.

An absorbing second-set tiebreak saw Thiem land four chances to seal victory but he double-faulted on one match point and Djokovic showed true grit to snatch the set.

Serves dominated in the decider and when Thiem started the day’s second tiebreaker and then lost the next three points it seemed as though the end was nigh.

Instead, the Austrian roared back, winning the next six points.

Djokovic saved a fifth match point but Thiem finally got the job done when a Djokovic groundstroke drifted long.

Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, pictured here after their semi-final clash at the ATP World Tour Finals.
Novak Djokovic congratulates Dominic Thiem after their semi-final clash at the ATP World Tour Finals. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

“What he did from 0-4 in the third-set tie-breaker was just unreal,” Djokovic said after the match.

“I don't think I played bad. He just crushed the ball.

“Everything went in from both corners, and he played a couple of very short slices, you know, angles.

“Yeah, I mean, what can you do?”

But fans couldn’t help but feel like Djokovic had ‘choked’, taking to social media in disbelief.

Dominic Thiem marches into final

Thiem will now try to complete a remarkable year, in which he claimed his first grand slam title by winning the US Open, when he plays either Rafael Nadal or Daniil Medvedev in Sunday's climax.

“It was a mental battle, I got so tight in the second-set tiebreak,” Thiem, who avenged his defeat by Djokovic in this year's Australian Open final, said on court.

“To play these legends is always special and to play here is also something special.

“I thought after winning the title in New York I would be more calm, but that was a mistake, I guess.”

Thiem will attempt to go one better than last year when he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

The Austrian is only the second player in 2020 to win a tie-break against Djokovic, who entered the third-set decider with a 15-1 tie-break record this season.

Defeat means Djokovic will have to wait until the event moves to Turin next year, after 12 years in London, to try again to equal Roger Federer's six titles at the year-ender.

The Serb, who has already tied Pete Sampras’s record mark of six year-end No.1 finishes, has not won the season-ending championships since 2015.

with agencies

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