Thiem, the youngest of the eight qualifiers for the year-ender endeared himself to a sell-out O2 Arena crowd with a swashbuckling first set tiebreak which he sealed at the seventh time of asking with a sizzling forehand victor. That emotional outburst sparked a winning comeback for the defending champion at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. "I thought I played very well in the second set especially, but the third, as well".
"It felt very good", said Djokovic.
The Spanish pair, who are not related, are seeded fourth after a consistent year that reached its high point at Roland Garros while Kontinen and Peers have claimed four titles this year, including the final event of the regular season, the Paris Masters. "It could have snowed in the O2 Arena as well, but it didn't". I had only one set point. Both men held their own with strong serving.
The victor came through with 22 winners, and 25 unforced errors. The Serb reeled off six straight games to send it to a third set, and then broke Thiem twice more to close it out.
Consistency is certainly something that Cilic has lacked, with his forehand at times prone to leaking errors and his serve can be more hit and miss than it probably should be for a man of his stature. The Austrian, who was making his debut at the O2 Arena, also blew set points at 6-5, 7-6, and 8-7, and 10-9. On the next point, Thiem ripped a forehand victor to seal the set 7-6 (10). The Austrian finally won it on his seventh set point with a forehand victor, prompting Djokovic to smack a ball into the crowd.
So Djokovic was in no mood to be denied at the start of the second set.
Murray successfully defended his Olympic crown from London 2012 as he edged past Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 4-6 6-2 7-5 in four gruelling sets in over four hours.
Thiem, unable to produce the same high level as earlier, quickly fell behind.
Djokovic is now 4-0 lifetime against Thiem.
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The momentum stayed with Djokovic from then on even though Thiem began showing more energy than before.
However, Djokovic is a savvy enough all-rounder to adapt to any game.
After that, it was just about all Djokovic.
Djokovic couldn't break Thiem's serve.
"It was a very good and very intense first set", Thiem commented. "I had, I think, only one set point. All in all it was an unbelievable experience to play in front of this great crowd", Thiem said after the loss.
The Cilic defeat in Cincinnati is one of only three Murray has suffered since the French Open, a run that has brought him 45 wins.
"He really put himself in a good position for this year and has continued to play extremely well". I mean, 17,000 (people); it's, I think, by far the biggest crowd I ever played (in front of).
And, in a quirk of fate, Murray's first match as world No 1 will find him pitted against Cilic and Bjorkman.