World No. 3 Dominic Thiem has noted that this season hasn't been physically tough for the players but the same can't be said for the mental aspect of the game. On Sunday, top-ranked Austrian tennis player Thiem kicked off his campaign at the Nitto ATP Finals with a three-set win over world No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5) 4-6 6-3.
Thiem was down 5-3 in the first set tie-break but then won four points in a row to win a tight opener. Tsitsipas won the second set to force a decider but he then dropped his serve early on in the third set and Thiem made him pay.
"Physically, it was the easiest year since a long time. Mentally, it is tough. You would get so much energy from the fans in a match like today. You have to push yourself all the time," Thiem said after his opening match at the Nitto ATP Finals, per Nikolaus Fink.
It was a replay of last year's final at The O2 Arena, in which Tsitsipas edged out Thiem in a third set tie-break to win his maiden Nitto ATP Finals title. "Last year, the level was higher. We were both in great shape and wanted the title so badly.
Today, the serve was more important. Still, I am very happy to have beaten Stefanos as he is a very established player," Thiem noted. Tsitsipas suffered a leg injury at the French Open and he was out for a few weeks afterward.
"Maybe I had a little bit of luck in playing against Tsitsipas in the first match. He was a little bit injured before this tournament and is not in the form of last year," Thiem admitted.
Thiem suggests Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are the favorites
"Maybe Djokovic and Nadal are a little bit above the other players," Thiem said.
Tsitsipas wasn't thrilled with the forehand he hit while 6-5 down in the first set tie-break. "It was the silliest thing that ever happened to me," Tsitsipas claimed after the match. Reflecting of that moment, Thiem said: "It is very brutal that we have to deal with these kind of situations all the time.
Besides the game at 3-1 in the third set, this was certainly one of the key moments in this match." Tsitsipas praised Thiem's performance after the match as he said: "He dealt with my serve better and took time to step back and apply more pressure to me [on] some of the second serves that I had early in the third set. I think that paid off for him."