After five mediocre years at Masters 1000 level on hard courts, the 25-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem has finally solved the riddle and advanced into his biggest ATP final outside clay. Heading to Indian Wells with a terrible 3-4 score, Dominic scored four wins and took advantage when Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw in the quarter-final, reaching the semis and ousting Milos Raonic 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 31 minutes for the place in the third Masters 1000 final.
The Austrian delivered some impressive numbers behind the initial shot, dropping just 24 points in service games and fending off the only break point he faced to mount the pressure on Raonic who gave his best to extend the match as much as possible.
The Canadian is a former finalist here and he pushed the better-ranked opponents to the limits before suffering the only break of serve in the fifth game of the deciding set that determined the winner and the second finalist.
Serving at 76%, Thiem was able to tame his strokes beautifully, finishing the encounter on 25 winners and nine unforced errors while Milos blasted 58 winners and 35 mistakes, keeping the points on his racquet but failing to reach the third tie break after that one loose service game.
Dominic had the edge in the shortest rallies despite 17 aces from Milos, also winning all six points that have passed the ninth-shot to cross the finish line first and set Roger Federer clash. Like never before, Thiem lost just three points on serve in the opening set, creating no break points but taking the tie break 7-3 after a service winner in 46 minutes.
A return winner gave the Austrian a break point in the fourth game of the second set that Milos erased with an ace, hitting two more winners to bring the game home and level the score at 2-2. Milos grabbed four points on the return in the ninth game although that wasn't enough to finally create a break point, entering another tie break that he won 7-3 after a service winner to set the decider after precisely an hour.
There, Milos wasted a game point in the fifth game and netted a forehand to give the serve away and push Thiem in front. An unreturned serve sent Dominic 4-2 up and he blasted another one in game eight, maintaining the lead and serving for the win at 5-4.
With his back pushed against the wall, the Canadian fired a forehand winner to earn the first break point of the match that could have extended the encounter and the drama. In one of the pivotal shots of the entire clash, Milos sprayed a backhand slice mistake and Dominic sealed the deal with two winners after a deuce, moving into the final with an excellent volley for the perfect result after a reduced start of the season.