ATP - Three years after coming to the ATP Finals as a hitting partner to the top pros, Stefanos Tsitsipas is leaving the tournament as champion.
Tsitsipas rallied to beat Dominic Thiem 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Sunday for the biggest title of his career, becoming the youngest champion at the season-ending event in 18 years.
''I remember myself watching this event on TV and thinking, 'Oh, these guys have done an insane year to be playing here,''' said the 21-year-old Tsitsipas, who was making his first appearance at the tournament. ''And now I'm in the position to be champion, so it feels awesome.''
''I just remembered (that), first time I met Dominic was I came here as a sparring partner. I think my first hit was with Dominic. It's unbelievable, isn't it? We are now facing each other in the final.''
''I missed some very close balls in the tiebreak,'' Thiem said. ''But I cannot do anything now about it. It was a great match from both of us.''
The win caps a breakthrough season for Tsitsipas, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, won two ATP titles and became the first Greek man to break into the top 10.
''He's great for tennis, because he has a very attractive game style, one-handed backhand, comes in a lot,'' Thiem said. ''It's great that he's up on the top. It's great that he's going to fight for the big titles in the future. I'm 100% sure of that. I'm also very sure of the fact that I can challenge him in every single match we're going to play. . I really hope that we're going to have a lot of big matches coming, the two of us.''
Thiem beat both Federer and five-time winner Djokovic in the group stage but lost another big final after twice finishing runner-up to Nadal at the French Open.
''That's why it's probably mentally the most brutal sport existing, because you can play such a great match and end up losing in the championship match,'' Thiem said. ''From that point of view, it's a very disappointing loss, very hard to digest. But on the same hand, I had some amazing wins also.''
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