In one of Madrid's best matches last year, two-time beaten finalist Dominic Thiem took down world no. 3 and former champion Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes after fending off two match points. The winner from Barcelona scored the fourth win over Roger in six matches, ending the Swiss' first run on clay since Rome 2016 after a titanic battle that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
The Austrian advanced to the sixth Masters 1000 semi-final, overcoming a slow start and surviving that scare in the second set tie break to bring the triumph home in the decider and book the semi-final clash against world no.
1 Novak Djokovic. Almost nothing could separate them, with two breaks on each side and two points more on Thiem's tally. The younger player raised his level after the opening set to stay on the level terms with Roger, converting only two out of 12 break chances but finding the way to cross the finish line first and extend the winning streak on clay last spring.
Federer served at 84% in the opening set, dropping only five points in five service games and mounting the pressure on the other side of the net with an aggressive approach that took all the rhythm off from Thiem. The Austrian did his best to stay in touch but had to chase the result from the beginning, losing serve in game two after a streak of massive errors.
Roger confirmed the break with a hold at love, moving 3-0 up after only nine minutes and delivering three more comfortable service games for a 6-3 when Thiem sent a forehand long after just 29 minutes. The Swiss had the advantage in the shortest points, striking with power from serve and the initial groundstroke and keeping the rallies on his racquet with net rushings.
Dominic was the better player in set number two, finding his range to sail through service games and earning five break chances in games four and six, wasting them all and allowing Roger to reach the tie break that brought all kinds of drama and excitement in 24 points!
Thiem opened a 6-4 advantage (he trailed 3-0) when the roller coaster started to spin, with Federer wasting two match points at 8-7, and 10-9 and fending off five set points to stay locked up at 11-11 until Dominic blasted a return winner to close the breaker 13-11 and set a decider.
Carried by this momentum, Thiem scored his first break of the match in the third game of the final set after 100 minutes, forging a 4-2 lead before Roger broke back in game eight after a deep return to extend the drama. The Austrian was not to be denied, though, stealing Roger's serve again for a 5-4 lead with a return winner and sealing the deal with an excellent hold in game ten to celebrate the fourth victory over the Swiss in six encounters.