ATP FinalsRoger Federer

Thiem Takes Down Federer in ATP Finals Opener

The Austrian was too solid on the big points for a slightly sluggish looking Federer

Dominic Thiem is off to an ideal start at ATP Finals, winning his first-ever opening match in four attempts as he defeated Roger Federer 7-5 7-5 in Sunday's night session.

The Austrian had won both matches against Federer this season, and he proved more than a match for the five-time champion indoors. Producing solid tennis throughout and coming out on top in the crunch moments of both sets to win through in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The loss means the Swiss is now fighting an uphill battle to make the semi-finals and he will need to win his remaining two round-robin matches to make the last four. His next match is against Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday at 2 pm.

Quick Match Recap

Federer Thiem Atp Finals 2019

Federer won the toss and elected to serve, but it was the Austrian got off to the perfect start, creating 0-40 with some aggressive returns. Thiem then converted at the third attempt when Federer went wide with a forehand.

A hold to thirty consolidated the break and Thiem was looking sharp early doors before a hold to love got Federer on the board at 1-2.

Into game four and the Swiss was able to make some inroads with the block return, and despite Thiem holding a game point, he broke back to level at 2-2.

A hold to fifteen saw Federer move up 3-2 to get quickly back on track, but Thiem was immediately level, steadying the ship for 3-3.

Another love hold put Federer up 4-3, but inroads on the return were hard to come by with Thiem levelling to make it 4-4.

Game nine saw Roger hold to fifteen with more solid serving but Thiem again levelled with little fuss.

A sharp return onto Federer's toes gave Thiem 0-30 in game eleven. Although Federer made 30-30, a completely mistimed forehand gave the Austrian breakpoint, and he converted when Federer shanked a backhand long.

The Swiss made thirty all on the return game but a big forehand gave Thiem set point which he took to take the opener 7-5.

Into set two and a comfortable hold to fifteen put Federer on the board.

0-15 could then have been 0-30, but Roger sent the 2nd serve return long. Another missed second serve return at thirty all helped Thiem level at 1-1.

A timely ace at 15-30 after three crazy points helped Roger avoid breakpoints in game three and he won the next two points to lead 2-1.

Buoyed from the significant hold, Roger was able to fashion 30-40 thanks to a slick backhand down the line winner. However, Thiem was up to the task, coming up with a brilliant forehand on the run when it looked as though Federer had the point sewn up. The Austrian went on to hold for 2-2.

An exchange of holds then ticked the scoreboard over to 3-3. Another comfortable hold for Federer looked imminent at 40-0, but he was pegged back to deuce, hitting a Djoko smash in the process.

Despite the loss of focus, Federer went onto hold for 4-3, but couldn't find a way through the Austrian from the baseline as Thiem held to thirty for 4-4.

A similar story presented itself in game nine, with Federer forced to deuce from 40-15. However, Thiem went long on the return to miss the opportunity and Federer held to take a 5-4 lead.

Having shown signs of tension on the deuce point in game nine, Thiem showed little of it on serve, holding to fifteen with more impressive serving for 5-5.

Thiem has been able to make his move at five-all in the first set, and he did the same in set two, making some deep returns that Federer couldn't handle and the Swiss was broken to love.

Serving it out was always going to be tricky, and while Roger was able to fashion two break point chances, Thiem was nerveless on the big points, saving both to seal it 7-5.

Match Stats

  Roger Federer Dominic Thiem
Aces 5 1
Double Faults 0 1
1st Serve 69% (47/68) 63% (51/81)
1st Serve Points Won 70% (33/47) 65% (33/51)
2nd Serve Points Won 48% (10/21) 63% (19/30)
Break Points Saved 40% (2/5) 75% (3/4)
Service Games Played 12 12
1st Serve Return Points Won 35% (18/51) 30% (14/47)
2nd Serve Return Points Won 37% (11/30) 52% (11/21)
Break Points Converted 25% (1/4) 60% (3/5)
Return Games Played 12 12
Winners 24 21
Unforced Errors 22 22
Net Points Won 55% (12/22) 63% (5/8)
Service Points Won 63% (43/68) 64% (52/81)
Return Points Won 36% (29/81) 37% (25/68)
Total Points Won 48% (72/149) 52% (77/149)


Thoughts on the Match

Federer Thiem Atp Finals Rr

I thought he played well. I mean, the start definitely didn't help. That put me on the back foot a little bit. But I recovered well, and I thought after that the match was actually pretty even for a long period of time. I had my chances, I felt. I didn't feel like I was outplayed or anything. Just maybe that first-round hiccups a little bit, not hitting your spots on the serve when you need to, getting into trouble early in the service games which maybe doesn't happen later on in the tournament. I thought also Dominic saved himself real well when he had to, so I thought he played a tough first-round performance today, and my game was probably just not good enough, and the start didn't help. Federer on his loss to Thiem

A close encounter this one and if you look at the stats there is very little to separate both players. The difference was Thiem was rock solid from the baseline and came out on top of all the big points. Nerveless on serve to save three of four breakpoints, and his whole game was that bit more dependable. 

I also think the Austrian did a better job on the second serve return to get the ball at Federer's feet which put him on top of the point from that first strike. That ability to apply more pressure was the reason he got the critical breaks at five all in both sets.

The loss is now the second straight year Roger has lost his opening match in straight sets, but I don't think he played poorly. The Swiss looked a little less explosive than he would have liked and some sloppy footwork cost him pace and precision on his groundstrokes. Both those things are needed to take charge of the points against Thiem who hits big and moves tremendously, but they weren't in his repertoire tonight for whatever reason 🙁 .

Predictions vs Berrettini

Next up is Matteo Berrettini as loser plays loser at the ATP Finals. The Italian was taken apart by Djokovic in Sunday's day session, and so like Roger is playing to stay in the tournament when they meet on Tuesday.

The two have played once before, with Roger producing a complete demolition at Wimbledon and you'd have to make him the favourite here too.

I would like to see him come out a bit more explosive than he did tonight, but he should be able to outmanoeuvre the Italian from the baseline to get him some awkward spots. Fed in straight sets.

What did you guys think of the match against Thiem? Predictions against Berrettini? Let me know in the comments.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. His game was off from game 1 and was not able force the game his way. Chances look dim for a SF appearance this year. 🙁

  2. Huge disappointment.
    His game was off since the start. I was worried about some back issues or something, but his serve looked fine.
    Luckily, now comes Berretini which should be an easy feat.
    The light spot is now on Thiem, ¿can he defeat Đoković?

  3. Very disappointing. Starting off with loss in the first game set up the tone. Roger was making too many errors at crucial time. Dominic was strong on both sides. It will be interesting to see what roger does against Berrettini. He didn’t play well at all against Novak. Cheering for roger as always. Let’s hope he pulls through but uphill battle for sure.

  4. Hmm, yes. Given my memories of how slow he’d started last year, I was concerned about him having to face Thiem first out of the blocks, and it looks as though I was right to be. 2 chances out of 3 to have to face Thiem or Djokovic in the first match – with hindsight, perhaps he’d have been better off in the other group, where 2 of the players were new to the event and might have taken a while to settle. Oh well, not the end of the world, perhaps, but it will indeed be an uphill struggle. I was willing him to win a set, at least, to make life a bit easier.

    1. Gameshow time.

      If the ATP said behind one of these 3 doors is Dominic Thiem, what would be the odds of Federer picking Thiem?

      And then after Fed had picked one door, the ATP opened one door and it was Djokovic, would it be in Federer’s favour to swap his original pick to avoid Thiem?

  5. Yes, those were my impressions too except that I was not too worried after Fed lost the first game as he was moving well and playing aggressively. This was proven right as he broke back soon after but the service declined as the set went on while Thiem’s got better.
    Thiem was rock solid from the baseline and on defense but I think that he won the match by sending deep heavy balls targeting Roger’s feet who barely could move out of the way, and this seemed to short-circuit his baseline game. The forehand down the line wasn’t properly tuned either.
    If Djerk-o-tronic wins against Thiem maybe Fed gets him in energy saving mode and has a chance… provided he defeats Matteo, that is.
    It wasn’t a bad match and some points were of good quality but the devil is in the details…

    1. I never got the feeling he was moving great or looked that sharp. Played some nice points as he can’t fail to with this style but overall game not quite there. Needed more intensity.

  6. Thought this group opener was tough for Fed and so it proved. I wld hv preferred Fed in the other group. Doubtful he makes semis now unless Novak decides to be generous. Thiem was extremely solid I thought and didn’t break down at all whereas he might hv done a year ago. He’s progressed hugely and his confidence v Fed is plain to see. I was surprised Fed didn’t receive just to get some feel on the ball from the serve/baseline and he was chasing from the start. Footwork got better but Thitm got those deep returns in whereas Fed didn’t take advantage of the 2nd serves when they presented themselves. There were moments I felt he was undecided in his point construction and he wasn’t as sure at the net, kept feeding the BH passing shot….

    Yes I think he’ll beat Matteo but can he beat Novak? And even if he does, doesn’t he need to win both in straight sets? Sad outcome tonight but can’t take away from Thiem.

      1. No way this nondescript version of Roger beats Djoker on this court, unless the latter’s wrist or elbow starts acting up again.

  7. Tough first match, not explosive on his footwork and FH too loopy. Oh well on to next match hopes he gets it done in two

  8. It’s the haircut.

    Alternatively, it’s apparently freezing in London & we have bad history here with that.

    Thiem really in fine form. Wonder what he’s doing differently with those balls at Roger’s feet… Roger is usually so good at those shoelace pickups, but today they seemed to be putting him off balance.

    1. The difference is that those balls hit at the feet had a lot on them plus Fed wasn’t expecting them at all in many occasions.
      Right now the highest expectation is that he puts up a good fight against Djokovic.

      1. By “a lot on them” do you mean they’re hit harder (faster) than what Fed is used to? That makes sense… wouldn’t be the same getting back a 110 mph ball in a situation where you would usually expect a 90 mph ball – if I’m understanding you right.

      2. Yes, Thiem hit those balls fast, deep and with just the right amount of spin to make sure they would fall in and do not slow down much on bounce. Straightedge & set square game. It makes them almost impossible to attack. It’s more or less what Djoko does with Fed.

  9. The best player won.Fed seemed to be playing reactive tennis throughout.
    For the first time I can remember Fed is probably not going to make the semis.
    Thiem hits the ball so hard and in this match accurately as well.
    The first game loss set the pattern for the match.
    It will be interesting to see how Thiem plays the Djoker.

  10. “I thought he played well. I mean, the start definitely didn’t help. That put me on the back foot a little bit. But I recovered well, and I thought after that the match was actually pretty even for a long period of time. I had my chances, I felt. I didn’t feel like I was outplayed or anything. Just maybe that first-round hiccups a little bit, not hitting your spots on the serve when you need to, getting into trouble early in the service games which maybe doesn’t happen later on in the tournament. I thought also Dominic saved himself real well when he had to, so I thought he played a tough first-round performance today, and my game was probably just not good enough, and the start didn’t help.”

  11. An interesting fact : RF (only) lost 9 games this year. One third of those – 3 –  against one single opponent : Dominic  Thiem.

    1. Surprising it is getting lopsided as I don’t think Thiem is a bad matchup, disappointing to lose to him on a quick indoor court though, that is not good for Fed.

  12. Didn’t see the match, thankfully by the looks of it. It’s a tough ask now. Not only does he have to beat Djokovic, he has to beat Djokovic who may well be playing for his tournament survival, which isn’t the circumstances I hoped would present themselves in terms of getting an elusive win against Djokovic.

    Honestly, with losing in straights meaning even if he wins out he might not get through, I don’t love his chances here. Looks too much for what level Fed had shown this year. We’ll see.

      1. If Thiem defeats Djokovic, it will be carnage in the last match, both of them deciding who gets through. Even if Federer loses to Berretini, there’s still a chance for him to qualify.
        But for sure, he’ll need to win in straights against Matteo to have a chance to finish N1 in the group.

  13. It was a very frustrating match to watch. Fed seemed so very human. Footwork off, cracked at big points, poor on returning second serves. I hate when he plays like this.

  14. Calm he is 38 not 25 he’s playing a much younger field now we can not expect the same Fed as 5 years or so back we have to be realistic , I am sure he is , saw Bbc breakfast interview this morning he admitted he has less time and less in tbe tank than the others but he’s still in the top 8 for crying out loud it’s a miracle in itself ! All I hope is I get to see him Thursday then I can die happy !

  15. “The difference is that those balls hit at the feet had a lot on them plus Fed wasn’t expecting them at all in many occasions.”
    Exactly Rui.
    It’s a pity as Roger would say. Ever see Fed lifting up a trophy with short hair?

  16. Oh dear, what a group A.Agassi is:
    * Nadal clearly struggling with physical issues
    * Medvedev lost his mojo from last summer
    * Tsitsipas / Zverev did not reach their highest level the last months
    * while in our man’s group Dopovic/Thiem are kind of peaking currently…

  17. There it is, Roger. Now Thiem just needs to beat Novak and Fed will be even more motivated on Thursday! He just needs to cut down on those horrible shanks and protect his serve. Novak is beatable, even if in front. Critically, Fed will need to seize every chance he has right away. The lesson of Wimbledon should be burned in his brain for the few big matches he has left in his career.

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