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Tennis

Thiem fluffs chance to unhinge Djokovic at ATP Tour Finals

Dominic Thiem is appearing at the men's end of season championships for the first time.
Dominic Thiem is appearing at the men's end of season championships for the first time. Reuters/Tony O'Brien

Dominic Thiem took his first set off Novak Djokovic in four meetings but the 23-year-old Austrian failed to press home his advantage in the opening match on Sunday at the 2016 ATP Tour Finals.

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Djokovic won 6-7 6-0 6-2 in just over two hours. After a 69 minute opening set, Djokovic hit express mode as he frustrated the Austrian with doughty defence to force errors from an opponent appearing at the elite event for the first time.

Djokovic is a veteran by contrast. The 29-year-old Serb is seeking a sixth title at the end of season championships which involve the year’s top eight players.

A fifth consecutive title in London will also furnish him with the world number one spot. Djokovic lost the billing to Andy Murray during the Paris Masters tournament when he was beaten in the last eight by Marin Cilic. It was the Croat’s first victory over him in 15 meetings.
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"Dominic started very well and we played on a very high level from the first point," Djokovic said. "He had a very high serve percentage and was the tougher player in the key moments of the tie-break. I definitely did not want to let him get off to a good start in the second set."

Djokovic's win at the French Open in June allowed him to join a pantheon of players such as Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who have won at the four Grand Slam venues in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.

But since his triumph five months ago on the clay at Roland Garros in Paris, the Serb has been hit by poor form that brought early exits from Wimbledon in July and the Rio Olympics in August.

Another disappointing defeat loomed when Thiem clinched the opening set at the O2 Arena in south-east London. But Thiem's winners stopped pouring forth. He was steamrollered in the second set. Though he stopped the rot by winning his opening service game in the decider, it was a brief moment of respite and he was broken when serving to go 2-1 ahead.

Djokovic, playing with patience and fluidity, invited his opponent to make the mistakes. And Thiem obliged. Serving at 2-4 down to come back to 3-4, he failed to keep the pressure on Djokovic. Armed with a double break and a 5-2 advantage, Djokovic completed his fourth win over the world number nine.

 

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