Either Dominic Thiem or Stefanos Tsitsipas will win the biggest title of their careers when the pair face off for the Nitto ATP Finals title on Sunday in London.
(geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
It’s not the final we expected at the start of the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, but the two best players by far this week will be squaring off for the title as Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas look to claim the biggest title of their careers.
Before this week, Thiem had only won three matches in total at the Nitto ATP Finals and had never come close to making it out of the group stage. Before this season, Thiem was thought of as a clay court specialist and not really a genuine contender to win significant tournaments on hardcourt. But how the Austrian has changed those perceptions in 2019 and this week at the O2, with Thiem conquering Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the round robin phase, joining Alexander Zverev as the only men to have accomplished that particular feat at the season finale, while he continued his spectacular form in the semi-finals on Saturday night, knocking out defending champion Zverev in straight sets to make his first ATP finals title match.
“This is just a big, big dream coming true for me. It is one of the best tournaments all year, one of the most prestigious tournaments all year, and I’m getting the chance to play the final tomorrow. It’s unreal to me. To beat the defending champion, a good player, an unbelievable player, this is always a great achievement and I’m very, very happy,” Thiem said.
Traditionally, Thiem has arrived at the ATP Finals fatigued and sapped of energy after adopting extremely hectic schedules throughout his career. However, this season Thiem came into the ATP Finals fresh and at the peak of his powers, perhaps due to missing a month of action after the U.S. Open due to illness and injury. The 26-year-old has won more matches than anyone since the U.S. Open and as mentioned, has taken his game to another level on hardcourts, winning 500-level titles in Beijing and Vienna over the last few weeks, while he also defeated Federer to secure his maiden Masters 1000 crown at Indian Wells earlier in the year.
Throw in more clay-court titles in Barcelona and Kitzbuhel and a French Open runner-up showing for the second year running, and it’s been a career-best season for Thiem, who will finish the year at No. 4 in the world regardless of Sunday’s result in London. Can he cap a tremendous season and a new-found love for indoor hardcourts by emerging triumphant as the ATP Finals champion?
Stefanos Tsitsipas (PA Images)
Stefanos Tsitsipas will have other ideas. The Greek has been sensational in his debut appearance at the ATP Finals, beating Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev in straight sets in the group stage (and pushing Nadal deep into a third set in a match he didn’t need to win and the Spaniard absolutely had to) to advance into the semi-finals, where he proceeded to play one of the best matches of his career, knocking out six-time champion Roger Federer by a 6-3 6-4 scoreline. Just as he did in their Australian Open fourth round clash at the start of the season, Tsitsipas was outstanding in the pressure moments, saving 11 of the 12 break points he faced and converting three of his four chances to outlast his Swiss rival for one of the biggest wins of his career.
“I remember myself being one of these kids here, watching the event and… I could never picture myself standing here, but it did happen,” Tsitsipas said. “Dreams do come true.”
Tsitsipas is only the third player, joining Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin, to make the ATP Finals title match on debut. Twelve months ago, Tsitsipas emerged victorious at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, and once again he was eligible to compete in that tournament, but the 21-year-old has bigger fish to fry now courtesy of a superb 2019 season, where he won two ATP titles in Marseille and Estoril, finished runner-up in Dubai, Madrid and Beijing and advanced to semi-finals in Rome and Shanghai – along with his big aforementioned victory over Federer en route to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
It will be the first ATP Finals title match to feature one-handed backhands since 2006 when Federer and James Blake squared off, with Thiem bringing a 4-2 head-to-head advantage into the showdown, including winning their last clash in three sets in the Beijing final a few weeks ago. Thiem is also 3-1 on hardcourts against the Greek, but their other two meetings on the surface came in early 2018, before Tsitsipas became the player he is today. This is such a tough final to call. Both players have played incredible tennis this week and are worthy first-time champions. I’ve been so impressed with Tsitsipas and his ability to play his best tennis under pressure this week, and despite Thiem’s obvious improvement in these conditions, I still think the Greek operates better indoors. It should be an extremely tight contest, but I’m leaning on the side of Tsitsipas to edge it and end 2019 with the biggest title of his career.