Dominic Thiem Defeats Roger Federer to Win the BNP Paribas Open

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Dominic Thiem has had a lot of expectation put on him over the years and while he has delivered now and then- beating Novak Djokovic in the 2016 Roland Garros quarters and Rafa Nadal in Madrid last season- when it has come to the biggest moments, he has not lived up to those expectations he did not exactly ask for, but which he gets thanks to being 25, possessing a potentially Grand Slam winning game and having beaten Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Last season, when he reached the Roland Garros final, he was expected to pose a real challenge to Rafa Nadal only to go down in straights. In the Madrid final last season, he was expected to have a good go at winning his first ATP 1000 title on his best surface only to lose to Sascha Zverev 4-6, 4-6.

What Dominic Thiem was not expected to do was win his first ATP 1000 title in Indian Wells and beat Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to do so.

Hindsight is everything and looking back the signs Thiem’s big breakthrough might come on blue hard courts was at the US Open last season when he took Rafa Nadal to five gripping sets only losing in a final set tiebreaker.

Thiem has never been touted as a hardcourter but he has a much improved serve and hits the ball with great spin and power from both wings, a recipe for success on any surface.

Especially one like Indian Wells where the ball grips onto the court before bouncing high and stays in the air long enough to really let rip on it.

Those conditions have played into Federer’s hands over the recent years. Since 2014, he’s gone F-F-DNP-W-F-F. The extra time works for his fall in foot speed and his style of play means he keeps the ball lower than most which can be tricky for his opponents. Plus, he’s Roger Federer, master of not just his own game, but the elements, too, brushing off the wind like his racket does over the cover of the ball.

But as Federer’s record suggests, those high bouncing slow conditions can work against him when push comes to shove- each of the four finals in the past six years he has lost have come in three sets and to players with the skills needed to excel in the desert- Novak Djokovic and his offensive defense and range, Juan Martin del Potro and that forehand, and now Dominic Thiem with his powerful spin-laden strokes.

The player Federer did beat in the final he won in ’17 was Stan Wawrinka, a player with whom, due to their one handed backhands and powerful strokes, Thiem is often compared to. And, like in that win vs his Swiss compatriot during that fine ’17 flurry of form, Federer proved to have the edge versus Thiem in serving and hard court prowess, taking the set 6-3.

Thiem did not panic or drop his head like one might expect of someone building something of a reputation for not turning up in big matches. Instead, he kept fighting, staving off break point early in the third game of the second set, and he worked his way into the match, outhitting a Federer playing within himself and free from the error-ridden baseline performances that have plagued him this last 12 months, and as the match went on finding the form that has led to such high expectations of him all along.

At times, Thiem’s brutal hitting had you gasping for air like someone unused to high altitude finding themselves taking in the view from the top of the mountain. From the heart of the third set, it was some view, too, with the blood covered Thiem, who had fallen and grazed his elbow, fighting from a set down to have a say in a match which he started off in the role of supporting act and finished in the lead role, on a stage few expected, but which he has learned his lines on and delivered in booming and captivating style.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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