Novak Djokovic succumbed to the extraordinary Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals Tuesday as the Austrian became the first man to qualify for the semifinals in London.
Despite winning the first set tie-break, Djokovic was second best to Thiem, who found his form to comeback 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-5) in a thrilling meeting.
The 26-year-old Thiem is competing at his fourth consecutive ATP Finals but had never defeated Djokovic on the hard court before.
“This was really one of these special matches, what I’ve practiced all my life for, all my childhood for,” said Thiem.
“Really epic one in an amazing atmosphere, beating a legend of our game.”
Defeat for 16-time major winner Djokovic means his next round-robin match versus 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will now be a straight shootout for the last semifinal place.
If he clinches the title, Djokovic would overhaul Rafael Nadal to end the year as No.1 for a sixth time, equaling the record of American great Pete Sampras.
Looking for the best online betting site? Visit Heritage Sports!
Federer, who also started his campaign with a defeat by Thiem, rallied to defeat Matteo Berrettini in straight sets earlier Tuesday to keep his dreams alive of a seventh title at the season-ending finale.
The prospect of the two champions battling it out will trigger memories of this year’s stunning Wimbledon final in which Djokovic saved two match points to triumph after five breathtaking sets.
“We have played a lot of matches since, and I think we both look back at a great match,” Federer said, saying the defeat at Wimbledon in July took a couple of weeks to shake off.
“I think we both can take away some confidence from the match. Him, obviously a lot. Me, maybe a tad bit less.”
By winning the final in London, Djokovic would also tie with Federer on six career ATP Finals titles.
Djokovic and Federer will go head to head Thursday in their final round-robin match.
The ATP Finals invites eight of the world’s top players to compete for an end of season prize. The field is split into two groups with the top two players from each qualifying for the semifinals. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, Nadal and Alexander Zverev are all competing in the other side of the draw.