Here, five-time champion Novak Djokovic failed to reach a record eighth time in the ATP World Tour final on Sunday, as Dominic Theme worked hard for almost three hours but lost to world number one.
Djokovic saved four match figures in the second set and took a 4-0 lead in the tie-break in the third set, but could not stop Austria in a ship instead of the great semi-final here in London.
The theme’s 7-5, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5) victory was the 300th victory of his career and it will be difficult to beat the ruling US Open champion in the final. “It was a lot on the shore,” he said. “I am just happy to be free. Whatever happens, we will have a winner for the first time.
“It’s going to be the last match of a very tough year for all of us and we’re going to try to put in a great performance.”
In a nervous start, Djokovic was forced to stop 0-30 four times in a row. The Austrian single-handed backhand – bigger, perhaps, than Stan Wawrinka – was clicking obscenely, and Djokovic needed his extra gear to stay with him. On five spins, he risked putting extra muscle on his second serve, and dropping the TT down to 115mph to win the point.
Theme, frustrated, threw his racquet into the empty seats after the ninth game (and hit X in his place for the first time). Djokovic, who was knocked out of the US Open for a warm-up performance at Arthur Ashe Stadium, was probably used as an excuse to smile.
Cheeks appeared 40 minutes later in the theme game when he made a second mistake and the second time hitting a forehand to fight through the dice, but he got a break point with a cracking winner in the 10th game, and Djokovic had a hard time. Low was forced to throw the ball. Theme took down from the middle to take the first set.
The second is a grip of love while restoring Djokovic’s creation, but the theme is remarkable under pressure; In the final of the US Open in September, he came down 0-2 in the tie-break of the fifth set to disappoint Alexander Zverev.
There was little in the second set until the fifth game. Djokovic tied the break point 3-2, Tim Hahnman told the BBC’s comment box. “He’s a little weak.”
Yet the theme could not nail him. The reconnected Djokovic got his first break point an hour and 22 minutes later, but his front flew an inch longer and Thame survived 4-4.
Serving 5-6, Thiem double-faulted and hit Djokovic long enough to get his hands on two set points. He saved both, attaching his service to 126mph, and forced a tie-break after a line of Hill points.
Djokovic seemed to impress the non-Channels as he hoisted his racket into the air waiting for Therm’s service, ending up at the top, but he turned the tide for a 4–2 win in the top four. Made.
Under intense pressure, he saved four match points – one of which was awarded by a double error – and took it to the third set when he pulled his opponent’s fear to the baseline after a two-hour fight.
Djokovic won 15 of 16 tie-breaks this year, an extraordinary comeback, and the spirits soared when Theme double-faulted early in the second shootout. He led 4-0, but serving Jomkovich, Theme dug deep to go 5-4. Theme tried to reach their fifth and sixth match points, Djokovic saved one but lengthened his final lobe and it was done.