Dominic Thiem beats Roger Federer to claim Paribas Open at Indian Wells
Austrian claims biggest title of his career with three-set triumph
By Paul Prenderville
Last Updated: 18/03/19 1:22pm
A set down Dominic Thiem was facing a third defeat in a Masters series final, this time at the hands of perhaps the greatest of them all, but the Austrian found a way to fight back and beat Roger Federer 3-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Paribas Open.
The world No 7, who will return to his career high of four in the Monday's latest rankings, had lost each of the last two Masters finals in Madrid and the writing looked on the wall in the Californian desert when five-time Indian Wells champion Federer claimed the first set.
However, Thiem battled back bravely to take the second, the first set Federer had dropped all week, before claiming the third and with it, the biggest title of his career as errors crept into the Swiss great's game.
"It is such a pleasure to compete with you, to learn so much from you, and to play with one of the biggest legends of all time," Thiem said before picking up the trophy.
"I feel like it's not my right to congratulate you, you have 88 more titles than me, so I'm just hoping you play more and we can have some other big finals."
Most Masters 1000 titles
Federer, who won the 100th ATP title of his career a couple of weeks ago in Dubai, failed to convert nine of the 11 break point opportunities he created and racked up 32 unforced errors as hopes of title 101 slipped away.
Instead, it felt like a landmark moment for Thiem, who had been seen as the poster boy for tennis' next generation of stars until Alexander Zverev's whirlwind arrival in the upper echelons of the game.
However, until Sunday night the Austrian had lacked a statement win against the big three of men's tennis.
Having reached his first Masters final in 2017 and his first Grand Slam final in 2018 only to be denied by Nadal, 2019 has now provided the 25-year-old with the biggest title of his career and the next staging post in his career courtesy of a win over perhaps the greatest the game has seen - quite a statement.
Thiem had lost both of his previous hard court meetings with Federer but on a surface that had seemed to play into Fed's hands all week, the Austrian outlasted the 37-year-old who had been presented with a place in his 49th Masters level final when his great rival Rafael Nadal had withdrawn from Saturday's semi-final.
But a three-set victory, in a little over two hours, gave Thiem a 3-2 career lead over the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his first title of 2019.
Federer, beaten by Juan Martin del Porto in last year's final, slips to his second defeat of the year and curiously remains without a Masters title since Shanghai in 2017, losing his last three 1000 series finals.
As ever he was full of praise for his opponent. "It has been a great week for me even though it didn't work out today," he told the crowd in the presentation ceremony.
"What a great week for Dominic. Wonderful playing at the very end and throughout the week. You deserve it. I just came up against somebody who was on the day a bit better when it really mattered.
"I have been in these positions so many times that I get over it very quickly."
Both players move on to Miami for the second Masters event of the year but there will be no Del Potro, the Argentinean's injury problems continue with a knee injury ruling him out in Florida.
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