1217 GMT December 12, 2019
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) on Tuesday in front of a spellbound O2 Arena crowd, Reuters reported.
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 semifinal 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.”
Having never got past the group stage in three previous appearances at the tournament, Thiem has now beaten Roger Federer and Djokovic back-to-back to book his place in the semifinals and appears to be the man in form.
Djokovic, who faces a decisive clash with Federer today 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.”
Back in the frame
Federer, meanwhile, got back on track with a 7-6(2), 6-3 defeat of Italian Matteo Berrettini and immediately set his sights on a crunch clash with Djokovic that will decide his fate in the tournament.
Their 49th meeting between the two will be their first clash since Djokovic beat Federer in July’s epic Wimbledon final — in which the Swiss held two match points before losing a fifth-set tiebreak.
“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then,” Federer said when asked if the memory of that Centre Court defeat was still a bitter one.
“I think we both can take away some confidence from the match. Him obviously a lot. Me maybe a tad bit less.
“But at the end of the day, I didn’t hope I was never going to play him again. Actually, it’s good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is. Personally, excited to play Novak on Thursday.”
Federer looked far sharper than he did against Thiem although the powerful Italian pushed him hard.
Once Federer won 10 of 11 points to win the first-set tiebreak and break to love at the start of the second, he never looked like suffering another defeat.
Incredibly Federer is now 17-0 in second round-robin matches at the tournament.
The 23-year-old Berrettini was also coming off a heavy defeat by Djokovic in his first appearance at the event, and he showed why he has made such an impact this year.
Berrettini, the first Italian to qualify for the tournament since 1978, had three break points in the eighth game of the second set but Federer served his way out of trouble and the 38-year-old Swiss then broke to claim victory.