Dominic Thiem, who competed as the top 10 for the first time, reached the final in Stuttgart in 2016 after a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Roger Federer. Playing his first ATP semi-final on grass, Thiem defended himself from two match points in the second-set tiebreaker against one of the best players on the fastest surface to stay on track for the title.
The young Austrian survived a scare in the second set, squandering a massive 5-0 lead and allowing Roger to reach a tie break, where the Swiss blew his chances. Dominic was the best player in the last two sets, with a lack of concentration in the second part of the second set that could have cost him the victory.
In the decisive quarter, the Austrian defended himself from four break points and went on to steal Roger's serve at 3-3, which turned out to be the crucial moment of the match. It was their third clash of the season after Brisbane and Roma, sharing a victory and placing the third clash on the third different surface.
Prior to Stuttgart, Thiem had played just six ATP turf tournaments and had only two wins against opponents ranked outside the top-80. It was Federer's first ATP semi-final loss on grass since Halle 2002, winning 21 matches in a row in that round and missing a chance to extend the streak.
Roger took an early lead with a break in the fourth game after a big return that landed right on the baseline and caused the Austrian's mistake. Dominic had a chance to regain the fast break at 2-4, missing a fast break opportunity and allowing Federer to close out the first match at 5-3 thanks to a beautiful forehand after 28 minutes.
The Swiss was unable to maintain that level in set number two, with the Austrian running a 5-0 lead with breaks in games two and four. Ready to do his best, Federer made a consistent comeback, winning game after game and melting Thiem's lead.
Serving for the set twice, Dominic made some costly mistakes and brought Roger back to terms of the level, 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 for him, making mistakes and handing the tiebreaker to Thiem, who won it 9-7 for a huge boost before the decider.
The first five games of the final set saw eight deuces and five break opportunities, and the servers put up with all of that to keep up with the score. Dominic survived four break points in the first two service games and delivered valiant shots, determined to fight to the end.
The Austrian held zero for 3-3 and made a decisive move a few minutes later after winning the desired break, sealing the deal with his serve in game ten for one of the most impressive victories of his early career considering the rival and the surface.
Federer still enjoys playing tennis
Roger Federer, who is currently gunning for a record-extending ninth title at Wimbledon, spoke about a wide range of topics at his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday. "With the team, we decided we're going to reassess the situation after Wimbledon because it's going to have an impact," Roger Federer said.
"If I play really good here or really bad, I think it has an impact on how everything might look in the summer. The goal was not to play until 40," Roger Federer said. "This all mainly came in the last years. I never thought also with the last surgeries I’ve had I would still be going."
Federer went on to assert that he still enjoys playing tennis, and that the grass-court Slam would be an important tournament for him as far as results this season are concerned. "I feel I still really love it (playing tennis), I enjoy myself," Federer said.
"I will see about the results, if they're going to come back. This is why Wimbledon is clearly very important to me right now."