Dominic Thiem defeats Kei Nishikori to keep his ATP Finals hopes alive
Kevin Anderson guaranteed a place in the knockout stages of ATP Finals. For Roger Federer to qualify he needs to win either one set or in the case of a straight sets loss, five games in total if both sets go to six, or six games in total if one set goes to seven
By Raz Mirza at London's O2 Arena
Last Updated: 07/12/18 10:45am
Dominic Thiem kept alive his slim chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of the ATP Finals with a 6-1 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori at London's O2 Arena.
Thiem was facing an opening-round exit at the O2 Arena for a third straight season and knew he needed to defeat Nishikori in straight sets to have any chance of progressing.
He was helped when Nishikori made a shocking start with 11 unforced errors in the opening three games as Thiem dominated proceedings in a must-win game for both men in Group Lleyton Hewitt.
The Austrian defended stoutly, saving four break points after a fine recovery in an epic fifth game to move 4-1 up.
Nishikori, who shocked Roger Federer before being pulverised by Kevin Anderson for the loss of one game in his last match, was struggling on serve and more uncharacteristic errors allowed Thiem to break for the second time before the French Open finalist competently served it out on his second set point.
Thiem, who lost his opening two matches against Anderson and Federer, was still looking the more likely at making another breakthrough, and after Nishikori staved off one opportunity on his previous service game, it duly arrived in the seventh game.
Thiem, 25, closed out the victory on serve, meaning that Anderson has to beat Federer convincingly for the Austrian have any chance to reach the semi-finals. If Federer beats Anderson, then he will reach the last four at the tournament for the 15th time in 16 appearances.
⚠️ For Roger Federer to qualify for the semi-finals tonight he needs to win either one set or in the case of a straight sets loss, five games in total if both sets go to six, or six games in total if one set goes to seven. #NittoATPFinals pic.twitter.com/jPr5ZAgAii— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) November 15, 2018
Shot of the match
The Japanese trailblazer demonstrated his touch with a stunning disguised forehand drop shot.
"I'm very happy because I didn't really feel good in my match two days ago so I really wanted to play better today and that's what I did," Thiem told Annabel Croft courtside. "I just wanted to do this for myself and for the spectators to show my real self and it was way better. I took pace off the ball and put more spin on the first serve which paid off with a higher first serve percentage and more free points.
"Whatever happens tonight it was good to get a win today. I'm not going to have popcorn, but I'm full power for Kevin tonight."
I think Thiem was tactically astute. He took advantage of Nishikori not feeling his best as well as he returned serve, but there was not that threat that Anderson or Federer pose. He will be pleased with how he finished this match and finally won another match here at the O2.
Greg Rusedski on Dominic Thiem
Kevin Anderson is guaranteed a place in the semi-finals, while Thiem's hopes of progressing are in the hands of Federer. He needs to win either one set or in the case of a straight sets loss, five games in total if both sets go to six, or six games in total if one set goes to seven to join the South African in the knockout stages, while a win for the Swiss would also mean that he tops the group. Thiem's hopes are hanging by a thread, while Nishikori's hopes are in the water.
Thiem vs Nishikori: Match Stats
|66%||1st serve win percentage||70%|
|63%||2nd serve win percentage||35%|
|3/9||Break points won||0/4|
|5/9||Net points won||13/18|
|71||Total points won||58|
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