Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the best two ATP World Tour matches of the 2017 season.
2) Thiem d. Dimitrov, Mutua Madrid Open, Third Round - 11 May 2017 (Match Stats)
For power hitting, intensity and momentum shifts, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov’s epic on Court Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in Madrid was both thrilling and cruel. Thiem, on his favourite surface, competed with great heart and conviction in saving five match points to edge past Dimitrov, also a possessor of a single-handed backhand, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(9) over two hours and 34 minutes of intense tennis.Thiem rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the second set, from 2-4 in the third set, then held off match points at 3/6, 6/7 and 8/9 in the tie-break before converting his second opportunity on a Dimitrov backhand error. Read & Watch Highlights
“I think it was a very good match from both of us,” said Thiem. “The tie-break in the third set was amazing. That’s the bad thing about tennis, only one guy can win. I don’t always play good in the important points, but today yes. I saved five match points. I don’t know if I ever saved that many match points in one match, so it’s a really good feeling.”
With the crowd swelling in numbers, as the third-set tie-break drew closer, it was a case of which player wanted it more. Thiem appeared comfortable in returning deep behind the baseline — standing alongside the line judges — and allowed Dimitrov control of the baseline. At 3/6 in the tie-break, Thiem proved to be confident, highlighting just why he has become one of the sport’s leading clay-courts over the past two years. Dimitrov served for the match at 6/5, but struck a forehand wide, and at 6/7 on Thiem’s serve, doubt began to invade the Bulgarian’s game.
Although Dimitrov saved one match point at 7/8, Thiem held his nerve, wrestling control away from his opponent with clarity of thought and stroke. The margin of victory was slim in a terrific duel (Thiem won 112 points to 111, with Dimitrov winning 18 of his 21 net points), but it was Thiem who exacted revenge for Dimitrov’s Brisbane International presented by Suncorp quarter-final win in January. The Austrian went on to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final (l. to Nadal).
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1) Federer d. Kyrgios, Miami Open presented by Itau, Semi-finals - 31 March 2017 (Match Stats)
Opposites in temperament and playing styles, but both exciting and undeniably box office. A standing-room only crowd turned out for Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios in an eagerly anticipated and electrifying semi-final clash. In three tie-break sets of high energy, brilliant shot making and pulsating drama, Federer saved set points and Kyrgios saved match points, before the Swiss superstar came out on top over Kyrgios 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5) in the Key Biscayne night. The epic had come two weeks on from their aborted BNP Paribas Open quarter-final, when Kyrgios withdrew prior to the match due to illness. Read & Watch Highlights
“It did feel very good, because you don't very often play three breakers in a match,” said Federer. “It's nice to win those and winning breakers is always such a thrill. It's great winning this way, especially because I remember the loss against him a few years ago. It was rough.”
Bursts of emotion from 21-year-old Kyrgios in reaction to Federer’s clean striking almost dented his chances in the first set, yet the Australian remained calm when it mattered most, saving a set point at 5-6 with an ace and two more in the tie-break at 5/6 and 6/7 with some big hitting. Federer also showed off his trademark steely nerves in the tie-break, saving a set point at 7/8 and again at 8/9 with a backhand winner down the line. However, the Aussie’s penchant for going for broke at crucial moments cost him the opening set. He rolled the dice on a big second serve at 9/9 and missed badly, handing Federer a third set point opportunity. The 35-year-old Swiss star made good on his chance, wrapping up the set as Kyrgios sent a backhand into the doubles alley.
The drama remained at maximum levels in the second-set tie-break, with a slice backhand from Federer on match point at 6/5 floating just long as Kyrgios could only stand at the net and watch. On his second match point at 8/7, Federer dumped an 88 mile per hour second serve into the bottom of the net as the crowd groaned in unison. Kyrgios wouldn’t allow Federer another opportunity, firing an ace at 10/9 and looking to his box in celebration at levelling the match.
The third set, which lasted one hour, fittingly resulted in a sixth straight tie-break for Federer and Kyrgios, with the crowd on their feet to applaud the efforts of both players. Their previous clash at the Mutua Madrid Open in May 2015 also produced a similar scoreline, with Kyrgios saving two match points to take a 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) victory. However, Kyrgios didn’t learn his lesson from the first set of the Miami brawl with Federer, gambling with a 128 mph second serve at 5/5 and ultimately hitting a double fault for his most costly shot of the night. Kyrgios’ risk proved to be Federer’s reward, with the fourth seed hitting a big first serve to wrap up the match in three hours and 10 minutes. At the net, they shared a warm exchange.
“I feel like my level of tennis has always been high, but mentally I'm competing for every point now,” said Kyrgios. “That's making the difference. I showed a lot of fight. Obviously, I'm an emotional guy. I had some ups and downs, a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately I think I put in a good performance. I think I've made an effort to try and put in [the work] every day. I've got a great team with me. Every day we're on the practice court trying to have fun.”
Watch Full Match Replay At TennisTV