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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, August 4, 2023


Dominic Thiem denied five match points out-dueling Laslo Djere 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(8) to reach his first final since 2020 in his Kitzbuhel home event.

Photo credit: @alexanderscheuber/Generali Open 

The ball buzzed by a lunging Dominic Thiem and banged off the back wall putting him in a bleak match point bind.

Home crowd roars echoing in his ears, Thiem summoned another stirring stand to reach the final promised land.

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A defiant Thiem denied five match points out-dueling Laslo Djere 6-7(3), 7-5, 7-6(8) to reach his first final since the 2020 ATP Finals on the red clay of his Kitzbuhel home tournament.

On a soggy Friday night, Kitzbuhel fans screamed support and Thiem tuned into the adrenaline, amped up the pace of his drives and pulled off the biggest comeback of his season saving all 12 break points he faced.

Firing one final forehand down the line, Thiem converted his second match point to close an epic three hour, 30-minute triumph in pure elation.

"I don't know if I can still produce some good words. It was probably the longest best-of-three-set match I've ever played in my life, including when I was still a kid I think even then I didn't play that long in a best-of-three match," Thiem said afterward. "It was very tough and intense match, obviously, so close every single set, every single game. 

"I knew straight from the beginning it's so close, already the first three games were 20, 25 minutes. But it was just incredible, the atmosphere again, so thank you so much."

It was a pulsating comeback win for Thiem and a gut-wrenching loss for Djere, who put himself in position to prevail.

The tough-minded Djere has persevered through pain throughout his life—he lost both of his parents to cancer—and fought off both Thiem and the vocal crowd earning match points at 6-5 in the decider on the Austrian's serve.

Wild card Thiem erased all three match points he faced at 5-6 to force the final tiebreaker.

Summoning the warrior within, Thiem saved two more match points in the breaker—at 5-6 and 6-7—to cap his comeback.

Djere will likely rue his first match point when he put a relatively routine forehand into net and his fourth match point at 6-5 when he had a good look at a mid-court forehand but swept it long to give Thiem new life.

The former world No. 3 whose career was sidetracked by a chronic wrist injury posted his third straight gritty comeback with a big assist from home fans.

Yesterday, Thiem thrilled home fans fighting past Arthur Rinderknech 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first semifinal of the season in Kitzbuhel. Prior to that win, Thiem dug down dip battling back from a blow-out opening set to take down China's Zhizhen Zhang 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Tonight, Thiem drew energy from home fans again and showed guts dancing around his backhand to crush some timely forehands on pivotal points.

"[The crowd was] so good and I needed it," Thiem said. "I needed the atmosphere and I needed the support today against Laslo, who is playing incredible at the moment, coming from a finals.

"And it's very special today, it's my first finals on the tour since my wrist injury and I couldn't be happier that it's here in Austria as well."

World No. 116 Thiem, who arrived in Kitzbuhel with an unsightly 9-17 record on the season, will play for his first title since he rallied to win the 2020 US Open crown tomorrow. This final return has vaulted Thiem back into the Top 100 at No. 89 in the ATP Live Rankings.

The 2019 Kitzbuhel champion Thiem will face Sebastian Baez in tomorrow's final.

Earlier, world No. 72 Baez toppled top-seeded Tomas Martin Etcheverry 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, in an all-Argentinean semifinal.

The 22-year-old Baez prevailed in two hours, 40-minutes raising his ATP semifinals record to 5-1 reaching his first final since he captured the Cordoba championship last February. Baez beat Thiem in their lone prior meeting, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 in the 2022 Bastad quarterfinals on red clay.

From the opening game, it was clear the Djere vs. Thiem semifinal would be a grueling physical battle.

In the third game, Thiem saved a break point with some gritty running digs to extend points, eventually holding for 2-1.

That spirited stand sparked a chant of "Let's Go Domi! Let's Go!" among the Austrian faithful.

Despite the crowd spiking, Djere kept calm, erasing a couple of break points during a five-deuce game to hold in the fourth game.

Exploring the corners of the court with deeper drives, Djere went up a mini-break at 3-1 in the tiebreaker.

Attacking a second serve, Djere drilled his return to earn four set points at 6-2.

The Austrian wild card saved the first set point on his serve. On the second set point, Djere jumped on a mid-court ball and fired his forehand to close the opening set in 66 minutes.

Staring down a double-break point deficit at 3-4 in the second set, Thiem found his first serve when he needed it most.

The former World No. 3 fired back eliciting a roar from fans as he leveled the second set after eight games.

By then, Thiem had saved all seven break points he faced.

Strengthened by that stand, Thiem punished some heavy returns scoring the first break of the match for a 6-5 lead at the two hour, six-minute mark.

Thiem served out the second set at 15 to force a final set with a trip to the final on the line.

Deadlocked at 4-all in the decider, Djere hit his first double fault to drop to 30-all. The Serbian held his serve, slamming his ninth ace in navigating a tricky hold for 5-4.

Serving to force the tiebreaker, Thiem double-faulted off the top of the tape. Then Djere whipped a running forehand winner for match point. The Serbian tightened a bit, putting a forehand into net.

Djere bounced right back with a deep return forcing Thiem into a netted backhand for a second match point.

A bold Thiem danced around his backhand and was a few feet outside the doubles alley when he clubbed a forehand winner down the line to save the second match point. 

The wild card's fifth double fault of the match and second of the game gave Djere a third match point. Thiem cracked a wide serve to erase it.

The whipping wide serve set up another forehand strike as Thiem denied all three match points to force the final tiebreaker.

The Serbian smacked a forehand winner for his fourth match point at 6-5 only to over-hit a crosscourt forehand.

Djere earned a fifth match point only to see Thiem, whose kick serve was confounding on the ad side, save it with a big serve for 7-7. Djere netted a forehand to give Thiem a second match point.

Ripping one final forehand down the line, Thiem closed a captivating comeback with a big strike.


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