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'I just hoped he wouldn’t crush me' - Dominic Thiem recalls first match vs Novak Djokovic

Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic contested the 2020 Australian Open final
Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic contested the 2020 Australian Open final
ANALYST
Modified 05 Sep 2020, 20:42 IST
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World No. 3 Dominic Thiem is one of the favorites to win the ongoing US Open. But the top favorite as usual is World No. 1 and 17-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic.

The Austrian player recently launched his new website, where he shared some stories about his rivalry with Djokovic. In particular, Thiem revealed what he felt before facing the Serbian star for the first time.

Reputed tennis data analyst Mike James believes that Dominic Thiem will be the most formidable opponent for Novak Djokovic at Flushing Meadows this year. But six years ago, when a 21-year-old Thiem was gearing up to face Djokovic at the Shanghai Masters, his only hope was that the Belgrade-based player wouldn't decimate him.

The most promising member of the younger group of tennis players today, Dominic Thiem battled Novak Djokovic in the Round of 32 of the 2014 Shanghai Masters. Recalling the day before that match, Thiem said:

"I played against him for the first time in Shanghai in 2014. He was on a peak. A few days before he had destroyed Tomas Berdych in the Beijing final. I just hoped he wouldn't crush me. I had immediately noticed the aura of his superb level of play, however, I managed to wriggle out quite well. I was able to keep up solidly, though I lost 3:6, 4:6. That was far away from a disaster …"

In the last six years Thiem and Djokovic have faced each other 11 times, out of which the Austrian has won four. After losing the first five matches against the 17-time Grand Slam winner, Dominic Thiem recorded four wins in their next five meetings.

Their most recent clash took place in the 2020 Australian Open final, where Djokovic downed his rival in five grueling sets.

My first victory over Novak Djokovic was quite emotional: Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals last year
Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic in the ATP World Tour Finals last year
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While Djokovic allowed Thiem to win just one set in their first five battles, the three-time Grand Slam runner-up recorded a big win over the Serb in the 2017 French Open quarterfinals. Two years later, Thiem defeated Djokovic in the semifinals of the same tournament.

Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic at the 2017 French Open
Dominic Thiem beat Novak Djokovic at the 2017 French Open
"In 2018, in the semifinal in Rome, I played against him quite badly, lost 0:6, 1:6. But three weeks later I defeated him in the Paris quarterfinals in three sets. My premiere! Amazing! My first victory was quite emotional. Two additional highlights: I won the 2019 Roland Garros semifinal. In the same year won the group match at the Masters," Thiem continued. 
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Both players have collided only once on the ATP Tour this year, and that match ended in Novak Djokovic's favor. As the two European stars are placed in opposite halves of the US Open 2020 draw, they cannot meet each other at Flushing Meadows unless both of them reach the final.

It will be interesting to see if Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic will contest a second consecutive Grand Slam final this year.

Published 05 Sep 2020, 14:20 IST
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