Dominic Thiem has reaffirmed his status as one of the nicest players in tennis with an amazing act of sportsmanship in the Australian Open final.
Thiem suffered a gripping five-set Australian Open final loss to Novak Djokovic on Sunday night, which followed two French Open final defeats by clay court king Rafael Nadal.
‘CANNOT BELIEVE IT’: Djokovic facing fine over ugly run-in with umpire
‘MORE IMPORTANT THINGS’: Thiem's incredible runner-up speech
But Thiem arguably won over the crowd and an incredible gesture for Djokovic had fans singing his praises.
Just like we saw in his semi-final win over Alexander Zverev, Thiem told Djokovic to challenge a linesman’s call that he knew was wrong.
With the match tied at one-set apiece, Djokovic hit a ball that was called long however Thiem could be seen gesturing to Djokovic that it had hit the line.
Djokovic dutifully sent the decision to Hawkeye, which showed Thiem was correct.
The young Austrian could have kept quiet and won the point at a crucial stage of the match, however he fessed up and allowed Djokovic a reprieve.
"Dominic Thiem was actually the one who signalled that was in to Novak," Lleyton Hewitt said in commentary for Channel Nine.
Still, Djokovic was left frustrated that the umpire didn’t overrule the call without the need for Hawkeye to get involved.
"Novak wanted the chair umpire to overrule it so he didn't have to challenge it, that's what he was expressing," Jim Courier said.
Thiem is a lesson in what sportsmanship looks like. Encourages his opponent to challenge when the call is incorrect for them, picks the ball up for the ball kid. Win or lose, he is a wonderful ambassador for tennis. #AusOpen2020 #AusOpen #AO2020— Jordan Grant (@jordiashley) February 2, 2020
Thiem told Djoker to challenge his shot, and the Out call was overruled! Such sportsmanship 🥰 #AusOpen— Jason (@crazyrichjason) February 2, 2020
Thiem takes positives from gutting loss
After painful losses in three grand slam finals, Thiem could be forgiven for hoping to soon see the back of the Big Three.
But the 26-year-old said it would mean much more to win a major while the ageing trio of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were still playing.
Thiem, who will overtake Russian Daniil Medvedev to become world No.4 on Monday, said he was happy to keep chasing the grand slam greats, who have won the last 13 major titles.
"I think it's pretty unique in the history of sports that you just need to look at the success that they had - what they're still having," said Thiem, who got some revenge by ousting Nadal in the quarter-finals.
"Of course, it would be easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, that's 100 per cent.
"You have to beat at least two of them to win a big title and almost all players fail to do that and that's what makes it so tough.
"But I'm happy I can compete with these guys on the best level and I really hope also that I win my maiden slam when they're still around because it just counts more."
The Melbourne Park loss meant Thiem joined a select company of misery with four players, led by Andy Murray, who have lost three grand slam finals before a breakthrough victory.
That includes Goran Ivanisevic and Murray's former coach Ivan Lendl.
Thiem said there's little he would change about the Djokovic match despite appearing in control after blitzing the third set in the 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4 result.
After spending six more hours on court than Djokovic through the tournament, he said he was physically spent.
"In the last two sets, I definitely gave everything I had so I don't really regret anything," Thiem said.
"Maybe I could have converted the break point in the fourth set where I could have the lead 2-1 and I may be sitting here as a winner.
"Of course, there were some small mistakes here and there, but at the end was a super close five-setter."