Dominic Thiem overcame Alexander Zverev and brief rain and lighting delays to become the first male Australian Open finalist born in the 1990s, setting the stage for a match against Novak Djokovic on Sunday.
The Austrian Thiem dispatched the German Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) in a semifinal between two of tennis’ next-generation stars looking to break up the Djokovic-Rafael Nadal–Roger Federer grasp on Grand Slam titles dating to the start of 2017.
Zverev dropped two set points on Thiem’s serve in the third frame. Thiem then raced out to early leads in both tiebreaks to win a three-and-a-half-hour semifinal.
Thiem has been the most consistent recent challenger to the Big Three, reaching the last two French Open finals (and losing to 12-time French Open champ Nadal each time). He beat Nadal in a four-hour quarterfinal in Melbourne and didn’t go to bed until 5 a.m. on Thursday.
Thiem won four of his last five meetings with Djokovic, but three victories came on Thiem’s preferred clay. Thiem did take their last match on an indoor hard court at November’s ATP Finals, rallying from a set down in a best-of-three.
But Djokovic’s most successful stage is Rod Laver Arena. He is 15-0 in semifinals and finals and seeking a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown.
“He’s the king of Australia,” Thiem said of Djokovic. “I’m always facing the kings of this certain Grand Slam in the final.
“If I walk off the court as a loser in two days, I still have to be patient, still have to trust the process.”
Thiem ended a streak just by reaching the final. The last time the Australian Open had a male finalist not born in the 1980s was in 2003, when Andre Agassi earned his last Grand Slam title.
The Australian Open continues Saturday with the women’s final between American Sofia Kenin and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. It’s the fourth straight women’s Slam final without a top-five-ranked player. Sunday will mark the fifth straight men’s Slam final where both players are ranked in the top five.
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— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 31, 2020