Novak Djokovic hailed the quality across the net after Dominic Thiem edged him in a semi-final thriller as his ATP Finals drought went on.
Djokovic is a five-time champion at this event and had won four consecutive tournaments at the O2 between 2012 and 2015 but has failed to land the title since.
He wasn’t far away in a narrow 7-5 6-7 (10-12) 7-6 (7-5) defeat to Austrian world No. 3 Thiem, which lasted two hours and 54 minutes, and praised his opponent’s performance as he clawed his way back from 0-4 down in the final set tiebreak.
‘Well, yeah, I mean, what he did from 0-4 in the third-set tiebreaker was just unreal. I mean, I don’t think I played bad,’ Djokovic said. ‘Actually, I made both of my first serves, actually all of my first serves. 4-1, 4-2, 4-5, you know, 4-6, I made all first serves.
‘He just crushed the ball. Everything went in from both corners, and he played couple of very short slices, you know, angles.
‘Yeah, I mean, what can you do? I mean, I was in a driver’s position at 4-Love. I thought, you know, I was very close to win it. Yeah, I mean, he just took it away from me.
‘But he deserved it, because he just went for it and everything worked.’
On his title drought, he simply remarked: ‘Well, it happens, I guess. Can’t win them all.’
Thiem, the US Open champion, has won five of his last seven matches against Djokovic, four of his most recent seven with Nadal and six of his last seven against Roger Federer and has established himself as one of the very best on the planet.
And Djokovic was left in awe of his raw power as the match slipped away from him.
‘I mean, you know, the difference was that when you hit full power and everything goes in, it just goes in. When you hit full power, sometimes it goes out. So simple.
‘He, just as I said, he did everything right from 0-4. I mean, I have to put my hats down and say, Congratulations.
‘I actually didn’t play bad any point after 4-Love. I thought I was, every point, I was in it. I did hit the ball, I was not pushing it, but he just, yeah, he smashed it and he just played great.’
Thiem will face either Nadal or Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final. The result guaranteed there will be a first-time champion in the final event at the O2 before it moves to Turin.
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