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.
“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.
no way Djokovic choked that away
— Lukas (@LukasCFCLAL) November 21, 2020
djokovic with an all time choke job
— SportsChemist (@chemist_sports) November 21, 2020
— Rotus (@Rotankwot) November 21, 2020
Amazing, really the rarest of all things, a choke from Djokovic
— 💙🤍Freddie💜💛 (@FLK_Sports) November 21, 2020
What a choke from Djokovic, impressive.
— kb. (@pessimisticpero) November 21, 2020
Thiem has just defeated Novak Djokovic and he can’t believe it
— Tannatalks #endsars (@tannaknowsball) November 21, 2020
Djokovic deserves to lose. How come he saved 4 match points but blew 4-0 lead on thie break. He played so defensive and just waiting for opponent's error while Thiem played so aggressive and hit so many winners #ATPFinals https://t.co/YByOeKnoyI
— Nyoman_D (@Man_Cimut) November 21, 2020
@DjokerNole well such a match. Loosing the match while leading in tiebreak is painful. As you are the number one of the World you have no excuse to lost the match with this Way.
— MÜCAHİD MECEK (@mmecek) November 21, 2020
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.
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