Thiem beats Zverev and set up Djokovic showdown

Thiem beats Zverev and set up Djokovic showdown

31/01/2020

Dominic Thiem fought back from a set down to beat Alexander Zverev 3-6 6-4 7-6(2) 7-6(4) to progress to a maiden Australian Open final, where he will face Novak Djokovic.

In an enthralling semi-final featuring a rain interruption, a lighting failure and plenty of drama, the fifth-seeded Austrian shrugged off a sluggish start and was braver on the big points under the roof at Rod Laver Arena.

The 26-year-old Thiem, twice a runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the French Open, will take on seven-time Australian Open champion Djokovic on Sunday after a marathon three-and-a-half-hour tussle with Zverev.

"It's unbelievable - I've twice played Rafa Nadal in Roland Garros finals. I'm now facing Novak here: he's the king of Australia," said Thiem of the prospect of meeting Djokovic.

" I'm always facing the kings of these Grand Slams. I'll try everything to win."

"I'm looking forward and will try to recover well."

The Austrian recovered from a dire first set - where 13 unforced errors and just five winners contributed to three breaks of his service - to reach a third Grand Slam final of his career.

Thiem sealed sets three and four on tiebreaks, despite his opponent's superior serving acumen, after he began to take control of the match from the baseline, finishing the match with 43 winners.

"Both of us could have won this today," Thiem, who dumped Nadal from the quarter-finals, said on court.

"Maybe (I have) a little bit of experience, little bit of something else. He's just 22, maybe not long before he makes it to his first Grand Slam final.

"It was an unreal match, again two tiebreaks, so tough and so close. It was almost impossible to break him."

With the men's Grand Slams dominated for years by the 'Big Three' of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, Thiem will bid to become the first man born in the 1990s to win a major title when he takes on the second seed Djokovic.

As first-time Melbourne semi-finalists, both players were in uncharted territory and nine breaks of serve in the first three sets betrayed their nerves.

After a brief rain delay, Thiem, who looked to be still shaking off his four-hour 10-minute slog against Nadal, dropped the first set in a flurry of unforced errors.

Thiem nudged ahead to 5-3 in a madcap second set laden with sparkling rallies and a few bone-headed shots from each.

In an outrageous game of net-rushing, botched overhead smashes and thumping groundstrokes, Thiem fought off two break points before blasting an ace down the 'T' to take the set and level the match.

The pair had literally shot the lights out, and play was halted for a second time early in the third set due to roof lamps failing.

After a seven-minute pause, the circus tricks resumed, with Thiem ripping a backhand past Zverev to take his serve.

Though thrown around the court by Thiem's power, the young German hung tough, claiming a spell-binding rally with a searing pass after Thiem had dived like a goalkeeper for a volley.

Zverev broke back with some superb tennis but his line call challenges were appalling. He blew his quota by the ninth game and with frustration spilling over, he earned a code violation for an audible obscenity.

The frustration mounted as Thiem saved two set points then raced away in the tiebreak, converting it with a sumptuous backhand winner from an absurd angle.

There was no glorious dash to the finish line, with the final set a grind but Thiem was majestic in the tiebreak to earn another chance to rock the Grand Slam establishment.

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