Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

Austria's Dominic Thiem. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Thiem into ATP Finals semis as Djokovic and Federer face shootout

  • Austrian fifth seed took fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph

LONDON: Dominic Thiem produced a scintillating display of attacking tennis to beat Novak Djokovic and qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, leaving the Serbian facing a shootout against Roger Federer.

In the standout match so far at London’s O2 Arena, the Austrian fifth seed took the fight to the world No. 2, recovering from losing the first set to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)

Earlier, Federer put himself back in the mix at the end-of-season event with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win against Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in their round-robin clash.

Federer and Djokovic will face off on Thursday in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final to determine who else will progress from Group Bjorn Borg.

Thiem was forced to play high-stakes tennis against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, taking the breath away with some of his inside-out forehands and single-handed backhands

Forced to play at his limit, he hit 50 winners compared with Djokovic’s tally of 27 but also racked up 44 unforced errors.

“This was really one of these special matches, what I’ve practiced all my life for, all my childhood for,” Thiem said.

“Really epic one in an amazing atmosphere, beating a legend of our game. And also I’ve qualified for the semifinals, which is the best.

“Coming back from 1-4 (down in the deciding tie-break) was a little bit of luck, but it was an unbelievable match and one I’ll never forget. Novak is the best player in the world and I had to do something special.”

In a captivating first set the players swapped a break apiece but Djokovic, a five-time ATP Finals champion, edged the tie-break.

Undaunted, Thiem broke his opponent at the first opportunity in the second set and, with Djokovic’s error count climbing, went on to level the match.

Thiem also drew first blood in the decider but cracked in the sixth game as Djokovic levelled the match and appeared to have engineered a switch in momentum.

The Austrian successfully challenged at 30-30 in the 10th game after his forehand was ruled out, preventing a match point for Djokovic and he toughed it out to level at 5-5.

He then broke Djokovic to love to earn a chance to serve for the match but stumbled and the decider went to a tie-break.

Still the drama was not finished. Thiem slipped to 4-1 down but battled back to win it on his second match point when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.

Third seed Federer had put himself under the cosh by losing his opening round-robin match to Thiem. The six-time champion was not at his fluent best on Tuesday but ultimately had too much for his Italian opponent.

The Swiss upped his game to take the first set tie-break comfortably and broke immediately at the start of the second set to leave the big-serving Berrettini with too much to do.

Federer was asked after his win against Berrettini whether his defeat to Djokovic at Wimbledon had left emotional or mental scars.

“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side,” said the Swiss.

“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.”

Djokovic is hunting a sixth ATP Finals title to pull level with Federer’s record and is also seeking to pip Rafael Nadal to the year-end number one ranking.

On Monday, top seed Nadal lost his opener in Group Andre Agassi to defending champion Alexander Zverev while Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniil Medvedev.


Saudi rally star’s Dakar hopes dashed by injury

Updated 15 December 2019

Saudi rally star’s Dakar hopes dashed by injury

  • Spinal fracture sidelines Issa Al-Dossari after brave third-place title finish

RIYADH: Saudi ED rally team captain Essa Al-Dossari has been forced out of next month’s Dakar International Rally after injuring his back in a lead-up event in the Kingdom.

The Saudi driver fractured a vertebrae when his car became airborne and landed heavily during the second stage of the Sharqiya Baja rally, the final round of the Saudi Desert Rally Championship, held in the Eastern Province.
Medical specialists told Al-Dossari the injury will require four months’ rest, effectively ruling him out of Dakar Rally starting on Jan. 5.
More than 300 international teams are due to compete in the 12-day rally to be held in Saudi Arabia, the first time the event will be staged in the Middle East.
Al-Dossari was in third place behind eventual winner Yazid Al-Rajhi and reigning Dakar champion Carlos Sainz when his car landed heavily, injuring both the Saudi driver and his French assistant Sebastien Delaunay.

Despite his injury, Essa Al-Dossari finished third place in the Sharqiyah Rally. (Twitter photo)

The Saudi ED captain insisted on completing the race to confirm his third placing in the championship rankings, but went to hospital immediately afterwards.
Al-Dossari’s third-place finish came despite his failure to compete in all the rounds. Several world champions led by Spain’s Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz and Frenchman Peter Hansel took part in the tournament.
Earlier this year Al-Dossari took the first Gulf position in the Abu Dhabi Desert Rally.
Before his injury he was completing preparations to join the largest rally event hosted by Saudi Arabia, competing in the Navara Pickup Class T1, prepared and equipped by the South African Red Line team.
Meanwhile, Saudi driver Ibrahim Al-Muhanna strengthened his Dakar rally claims by winning the Saudi Desert Rally Championship in the T4 truck category.
Backed by his crew, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abu Deeb, the Security Forces Officers Club team captain gained 150 championship points over five rounds held in Asir, Al-Qassim, AlUla-Neom, Riyadh and the Eastern Region without being subjected to violations or temporary penalties.
Al-Muhanna’s Saudi Desert Rally win adds to his Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar victories in recent years, and makes him the only driver to collect all Gulf championships.
The Security Forces Officers Club team will include rising navigator Raed Abu Deeb in its plans for the Dakar Rally, which will feature 45 specialized truck teams.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and end in Qiddiya, outside Riyadh, covering a distance of 7,800 km.