Dominic Thiem has played seven matches against his idol Roger Federer so far, losing the first in Brisbane 2016 but winning five of the following six. In their first and only title clash, Thiem defeated Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in Indian Wells 2019 in two hours and two minutes for his first and only Masters 1000 crown. Thiem arrived in Indian Wells with just seven matches that season, struggling with a form and virus that halted his progression in the opening two months. That all changed in Indian Wells, as Thiem became only the seventh different champion in the desert since 2002. The Austrian made the difference with the second serve, although he had to dig deep to cross the finish line first, repelling nine out of 11 break chances and stealing Roger’s serve three times to celebrate the win. Dominic knew he had to be aggressive to stand a chance against the opponent who likes to control the pace, and he did that with 24 winners and 25 unforced errors on his tally while Federer counted to 23 winners and 32 mistakes, mostly from his backhand wing.
Thiem had more service winners and forged the advantage in the shortest rallies up to four strokes and in those mid-range ones to cement the triumph and crack the top-4 for the first time in a career on the next day. The Swiss was off to a great start, breaking the Austrian in game two after Thiem’s backhand error and settling into a nice rhythm on serve. That all changed in game seven when Dominic broke back and gained momentum. Roger stayed focused, though, keeping the pressure on the younger opponent in the next game and converting the fourth break opportunity with a return winner. The Swiss used this opportunity and closed the opener with a service winner at 5-3 after 36 minutes. Thiem fended off both break chances he faced at 1-1 in the second set and served well after that to wait for an opportunity on the return.
Dominic Thiem defeated Roger Federer for his first Masters 1000 crown in Indian Wells.
In the next game, Roger netted an easy forehand, allowing Dominic to forge the advantage and blast four winners on serve to gain a 4-1 lead. The Austrian clinching the set in a mighty impressive way after landing four more direct points in game nine for 6-3 and a boost ahead of the decider. The final set saw seven easy holds on both sides before Dominic faced a break point that could have pushed Roger 5-3 up, saving it after forcing Federer’s error and bringing the game home with a service winner for 4-4. With momentum on his side, Thiem broke Federer in the 11th game thanks to a forehand crosscourt winner and moved a game away from the most significant title of his career. Roger’s loose forehand helped Dominic hold at 15 in the 12th game and celebrate the first Masters 1000 crown.
“Maybe playing-wise, Roger was the biggest inspiration because of the one-handed backhand. I tried to copy his style a bit, of course, and then when I started to watch tennis, when I was maybe 7-8 years old, he was becoming the No. 1. Roger was a great inspiration right from the start. Then I had this first practice with him, I was so nervous, and I think everybody could see that in the interview I gave after. One of the most significant moments was when we played our first match in Brisbane 2016; he killed me in that one, which was not pleasant. Still, that’s all part of my great journey with Roger, and it became even better when I beat him for the first time and in a notable final, like in Indian Wells,” Dominic Thiem said.