World No. 3 Dominic Thiem was denied a perfect 3-0 record in Group London 2020 after tournament debutant Andrey Rublev handed him the first defeat of his Nitto ATP Finals campaign. Now, last year’s finalist is hitting reset as he hopes to return to the ‘amazing intensity’ of his opening victories ahead of the semi-finals.

There was more than just pride on the line as Thiem took the court at The O2 against Rublev, even though both players’ fates were already sealed: Thiem  was looking to claim a milestone 300th career victory against the five-time titlist, while Rublev was looking to end his breakthrough season on a high note after going 0-2 in the group.

But Thiem struggled to close out the match as Rublev came out swinging, breaking the Austrian’s serve four times en route to a 6-2, 7-5 victory. The Russian opened up a 4-0 lead in the first set, and held off a game point in the second set that would have sent the match into a tie-break as Thiem fought his way back. Instead, it as Rublev claiming his third consecutive victory over the World No. 3.

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“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity that I had in the first two matches,” Thiem reflected in his post-match press conference. “Obviously I wanted to win the match 100 per cent, but still, the first two matches were pretty tough and pretty long… Whenever I’m not at 110 per cent at this tournament, there’s no chance against any player.”

Thiem clinched Group London 2020 on Tuesday after defeating the defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in three sets, a high-octane rematch of last year’s London final, and edging past Rafael Nadal in two tie-break sets. But for the second year in a row, the Austrian was unable to find his best tennis in the final group match, having also gone 2-0 in 2019 before losing out to another debutant, Matteo Berrettini, en route to the final. 

“Especially after those two tough encounters against Stefanos and Rafa, I was maybe not able to put up that 110 per cent, and then it’s impossible to win against any of the other players,” he said. “But the motivation was there, I was trying everything to win that match.

“There was still a huge motivation, I mean 200 points [in the FedEx ATP Rankings] are a big, big motivation,” Thiem added. “It’s a lot. But I also have to say, it’s really difficult this tournament because [we] are eight best players in the world, so I have to be probably more than 100 per cent to win those matches.”

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The good news for Thiem is his Nitto ATP Finals campaign will continue in the semi-finals. His opponent remains to be determined; he’ll await the winner between Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic. Both players own a 1-1 record in Group Tokyo 1970, and the winner between them will go through to the last four.

“Both of them [Djokovic and Zverev] are great, both are former champions of this tournament. It doesn’t matter for me, the goal for me is to find that great intensity tomorrow in practice, and then try to be 100 per cent on Saturday, whoever I face.”



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