Competing as the top-10 player for the first time, Dominic Thiem reached the final in Stuttgart in 2016 following a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer. Playing his first ATP semi-final on grass, Thiem fended off two match points in the second set tie break against one of the greatest players on the fastest surface to stay on the title course.
The young Austrian survived a scare in the second set, wasting a massive 5-0 advantage and allowing Roger to reach a tie break, where the Swiss squandered his opportunities. Dominic was the better player in the last two sets, with the lack of concentration in the second set's second part that could have cost him the victory.
In the decider, the Austrian fended off four break points and went on to steal Roger's serve at 3-3, which proved to be the encounter's pivotal moment. It was their third clash of the season after Brisbane and Rome, sharing one victory and setting the third clash on the third different surface.
Before Stuttgart, Thiem had played only six ATP tournaments on grass and earned only two wins against the rivals ranked outside the top-80. It was Federer's first loss in the ATP semi-finals on grass since Halle 2002, winning 21 straight matches in that round and missing the opportunity to extend the streak.
Roger took an early lead with a break in game four after a great return that landed right on the baseline and caused the Austrian's error.
Roger Federer had a massive chance to beat Dominic Thiem in Stuttgart 2016.
Dominic had a chance to pull the break back at 2-4, missing a break chance and allowing Federer to close the opener at 5-3 thanks to a beautiful forehand winner after 28 minutes.
The Swiss couldn't keep that level in set number two, with the Austrian racing into a 5-0 lead with breaks in games two and four. Ready to give his best, Federer made a steady comeback, taking one game after another and melting Thiem's advantage.
Serving for the set twice, Dominic made some costly mistakes and brought Roger back to the level terms, setting up a tie break where the Swiss was the favorite. Federer had match points at 6-5 and 7-6, but it wasn't to be for him, spraying errors and handing the breaker to Thiem, who won it 9-7 to gain a massive boost ahead of the decider.
The first five games of the final set saw eight deuces and five break chances, with servers enduring all that to follow the scoreboard. Dominic survived four break points in the opening two service games and delivered brave shotmaking, determined to fight until the end.
The Austrian held at love for a 3-3 and made a decisive move a few minutes later after earning the desired break, sealing the deal on his serve in game ten for one of the most impressive wins of his early career, considering the rival and the surface.