Day 5 at the Nitto ATP Finals will be decisive in the context of qualification to the semifinals. With Dominic Thiem safely through following his stunning win over Novak Djokovic, it will be Serb who will be involved in a straight shootout against six-time champion Roger Federer to determine who will join the Austrian.
Nitto ATP Finals Day 5 Predictions
Dominic Thiem vs Matteo Berrettini
Head-to-head: Thiem 2-1 Berrettini
When the groups came out, Dominic Thiem was viewed as third favorite to qualify to the semifinals, which in itself was not surprising. In his previous three visits to London’s season finale, the hard-hitting Austrian had failed to navigate his way to the last four in much more winnable groups. This year, in Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s group, he wasn’t considered a genuine threat. The 26-year-old has been widely proclaimed as the heir to Nadal’s throne. There can be no denying his exceptional clay-court skills, which have garnered him an impressive 10 titles on the surface and a couple of Roland Garros runner-up finishes. However, Thiem has changed that proclamation that he is but just a one-surface threat, with yet another reminder at this week’s Nitto ATP Finals.
After a drama-free saunter against Federer last Sunday in which he defeated the six-time champion in straight sets, the fifth seed produced a sublime performance in his second match to beat the indefatigable Djokovic in three pulsating sets in a near three-hour epic. Thiem out-muscled Djokovic from the back of the court, crunching down a remarkable 50 winners. It was a performance that drew glowing tribute from the Serbian star, who simply called it “unbelievable.”
Thiem’s reward for his efforts is a place in the semifinals of the ATP Finals for the first time. He is guaranteed to top the group, regardless of how he performs against Matteo Berrettini. Berrettini is a child in a candy shop right now living his dream of qualifying for the ATP Finals. The Italian admitted he did not even contemplate the idea of making it this far. He was outside the world’s Top 50 at this juncture 12 months ago, but he has surpassed everyone’s expectations–including his own–with how fast his ranking has shot up. Will the man from the Eternal city sign off with a win on his tournament debut?
It is hard to see how Berrettini can win here on the basis of his performances this week and just how impressive Thiem has fared. Despite playing a punishing three-setter against Djokovic, I don’t think the Austrian will take his eyes off the ball here.
Prediction: Thiem in 3
Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer
Head-to-head: Djokovic 26-22 Federer
The final Round Robin match in Group Bjorn Borg pits two of the most successful champions in the history of the Nitto ATP Finals. World No.2 Novak Djokovic is looking to tie Roger Federer’s record haul of six titles this year, but the Serbian star has been the King of the O,2 having won the event more times than any player (beating Federer in three finals) since the tournament moved to London a decade ago.
Djokovic and Federer will meet for the 49th time, but there is general perception by pundits and the two players alike, this encounter will not hit the dizzying heights of their stunning 48th heavyweight contest at lawns of SW19 four months ago.
Federer will have a shot at redemption from that heartbreaking defeat at Wimbledon where he spurned two championship points on his serve and ended losing in a first-ever 12-all final set tiebreak to decide the title. While the stakes this time may not be as high as that epic showdown, there is still a lot to play for on Thursday. Djokovic is looking to reclaim the year-end No.1 ranking from Nadal and a defeat will spell the end of his hopes. Federer on the other hand is seeking a first win over Djokovic in four years. Since the Swiss’ last win over his great rival (which was in the Round Robin stage of ATP Finals), Djokovic has turned the tables on this rivalry winning their next five meetings and taking a commanding head-to-head lead.
A Federer win is not beyond the realms of possibility despite his five-match losing streak in the series. He ran Djokovic extremely close in their last two meetings where it took the Serb a final set tiebreak to triumph in both matches (Paris Masters and Wimbledon). However, against Djokovic as often is the case, Federer will need not only a perfectly executed game plan, but also overcome the mental block which is now synonymous with Federer when it comes to playing the Serb. I expect this to be another fascinating battle and I give the edge to Djokovic to win again.
Prediction: Djokovic in 3
Main Photo from Getty.