The first time Dominic Thiem played at the ATP Finals, he was handed an unknown Greek teenager as a hitting partner in training.
Three years later, Thiem is facing that same player in the final of the season-ending tournament.
Thiem beat defending champion Alexander Zverev in the semifinals on Saturday after Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted six-time winner Roger Federer, setting up a title match between two players who first met each other at the O2 Arena under very different circumstances.
”I just saw a picture before that I practiced with him the first time I played here 2016,” Thiem said after beating Zverev 7-5, 6-3. ”He was a hitting partner here. It's an amazing story for both of us. … We didn't think that only three years later we were going to face each other in the final.”
The now 21-year-old Tsitsipas had the most eye-catching win on Saturday, saving 11 of 12 break points to beat Federer 6-3, 6-4. He also took advantage of an error-filled performance from Federer, who continually put his opponent under pressure only to come up short when it mattered.
"I'm proud of myself, how hard I fought today, how concentrated I stayed in the breakpoints," said Tsitsipas, who reached the biggest final of his career. "Didn't crack under pressure. I was very composed and very mature in my decisions."
In the evening match, Zverev doubled-faulted on set point to hand Thiem a 1-0 lead and was then broken for the second time to make it 4-2 in the second set.
Thiem saved two break points in the next game to hold for 5-2, and then served out the match on his first attempt, clinching the victory with a forehand winner on match point.
The final pairing also ensures that the tournament will have a first-time champion for the fourth year in a row.
Federer and Novak Djokovic combined to win the ATP Finals nine times in 10 years between 2006-15 before Andy Murray broke that streak and Gregor Dimitrov won it in 2017.
Zverev was trying to repeat last year’s title win but couldn’t convert any of the four break points he forced against Thiem. As he sat down for the changeover after his double-fault to end the first set, he slammed his racket down so hard it bounced along the court and came to rest behind the baseline.
He was also frustrated with the way he gave away a cheap break in the second set.
”I broke myself. I missed two overheads one meter away from the net,” Zverev said. ”It was just a bad game. Yeah, the match was over a few games later, so what can I do?”
Thiem beat both Federer and Djokovic in the group stage just to reach the semifinals for the first time in four attempts at the tournament.
Tsitsipas, who is making his first appearance at the event, saved all six break points he faced against Federer in the first set. That included two at 5-3, when he needed seven set points before finally winning a marathon game.
He broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second, then saved three break points from 0-40 in the next game before Federer finally converted his fourth to level the set.
But Tsitsipas broke again straight away with a forehand winner and then saved two more break points from 15-40 down when serving for the match at 5-4.
He didn’t give the 38-year-old Federer any more chances of a comeback, serving out the match with an ace.
"No doubt I had my chances," Federer said. "I'm just frustrated I couldn't play better. And when I did and fought my way back, I threw it away again."
The 17-year age gap between the two players was the largest in the history of the tournament.
For Federer, it was a surprisingly erratic performance after he played near-flawless tennis to beat Djokovic in straight sets on Thursday to reach the semifinals.
He finished that match with five unforced errors - including two double-faults - but had 26 in this match.
Federer was especially unhappy with the service break in the first set, when he also missed two fairly routine overheads to gift his opponent the early lead.
"Getting broken with missing two smashes in one game, that hasn't happened in a long, long time. Or ever," Federer said. "So that was tough."
Brazilian women’s soccer set an attendance record on Saturday with more than 28,000 fans at the Arena Corinthians stadium to watch the second leg of the Sao Paulo state championship final.
Corinthians beat local rival Sao Paulo 3-0 in front of 28,862 fans, Corinthians tweeted. Match tickets had been given out for free during the week.
Corinthians won the first leg 1-0.
The previous record was in 2017 at Manaus’ Arena Amazonia in the semifinals of the Brazilian championship when Iranduba lost 2-1 to Santos in front of 25,371 people.
Two-time world Junior champion Alexandra Trusova took over the ladies title from Olympic silver medalist and her fellow Russian Evgenia Medvedeva at the ISU figure skating Grand Prix Rostelecom Cup here on Saturday after nailing three successful quads in her free skate.
Skating to "Games of Thrones", the 15-year-old Trusova missed her opening quadruple Salchow but recovered instantly to reel off a quadruple Lutz, quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop, quadruple toeloop-Euler-triple Salchow as well as a triple flip and double Axel.
Though she fell on the back end of her triple Lutz-triple loop combination, the Russian "quad queen" collected a level four for her spins and footwork, scoring 160.26 points in free skate and piling up 234.47 points overall to win her second GP gold this season.
"I am very happy to have won my second Grand Prix event and to have qualified for the Grand Prix Final. However, I made some mistakes in short and free program and I'll continue to work to skate two clean programs next time," Trusova said.
"I would like to compete with the men, because they can do a quad in the short program and we are not allowed to. Also, it would be interesting to compete with skaters that do many quads in the programs," she added.
Overnight leader Medvedeva settled for the silver on 225.76 after finishing her free skate with a score of 148.83, and Mariah Bell of the United States took the bronze, her second on the circuit this season, on 138.56 in free skate and 205.67 in total.
China's Chen Hongyi moved up from ninth to eighth place on 175.77 overall after she performed to Dance For Me Wallis and scored 118.60 points with her free skating routine.
On men's part, Russian skaters made a clean sweep of the podium, as Alexander Samarin came out the first Russian man in a decade to win his home GP event, beating his countrymen Dmitri Aliev and debutant Makar Ignatov to the second and third places.
Pairs trophy was also lifted by a local favorite couple as Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii skated to their second GP title, while Their teammates Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov claimed the silver and Germany's Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert earned the bronze, their first GP medal.
In the ice dance, world silver medalists Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov of Russia collected the second GP gold of their careers, beating Canadians Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier to the second place. The bronze went to Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin of Spain.
A total of 60 skaters and couples representing 19 ISU members competed at Rostelecom Cup, the fifth and penultimate event of the ISU figure skating Grand Prix Series.
The series continues next week with the sixth and final event NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan, as the top six qualifiers of the GP series in each discipline will proceed to the Final in Turin, Italy, slated on Dec. 5-8.
A brace from Toni Kroos helped Germany to seal their berth at next year's EURO after cruising past Belarus 4-0 in a Group C qualifier on Saturday.
Germany have qualified for the 13th time in a row for the European championship after dominating Belarus from the start to the finish. The visitors were able to hold the pace in the first half before Joachim Low's men turned up after the break to score three second-half goals.
The hosts took the reins from the kick off, pushed Belarus on the back foot, but were unable to beat Belarus goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor in the opening minutes.
Timo Werner, Serge Gnabry as well as Leon Goretzka created promising chances but Gutor seemed to be an insuperable barrier.
Things changed before the break as Germany were able to turn their dominance into a tangible reward as Gnabry's build-up work on the right wing and spare pass into the box allowed Matthias Ginter to back heel the opener in the 41st minute.
The Germans went further ahead as Goretzka curled home an untouched corner from the edge of the box to double the lead four minutes into the second half.
Belarus were unable to keep the pace as Germany tripled their lead just six minutes later when Kroos benefitted on Ginter's assist to sweep the ball into the top corner.
Germany then retracted and handed over control while Belarus squandered a chance to pull one back when Stanislav Dragun headed wide from inside the box in the 69th minute.
The visitors got another golden chance to reduce the arrears as Robin Koch's foul play inside the box awarded Belarus an attempt from the spot. However, Igor Stasevich was unable to beat Germany custodian Manuel Neuer, who anticipated the bottom right corner and defused the penalty in the 75th minute.
Germany weren't done with the scoring and added the fourth goal as Kroos had all time and space inside the box to wrap up his brace with seven minutes to the final whistle.
With the result, Germany top Group C with 18 points followed by the Netherlands (16 points), Northern Ireland (13 points), Belarus (4 points) and Estonia (1 point).
Poland defeated Israel 2-1 and secured first place in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group G at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on Saturday.
About 16,700 spectators, including 2,000 Poles, saw the visiting team get on well with 2-0 lead for most of the time without Bayern Munich's striker Robert Lewandowski, who will undergo surgery in December.
Poland opened strongly and scored just after four minutes by Lokomotiv Moscow's midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, much thanks to an error in Israeli defense.
The Polish control of the game continued until halftime, when Israel was very lucky not to concede more goals.
Poland doubled its lead in the 54th minute by AC Milan's striker Krzysztof Piatek, who turned a rebound from the post to a second goal.
Guangzhou R&F striker Eran Zahavi, who shares with England's Harry Kane the lead of the qualifiers' top scorers table (11 goals each), found the net in the 75th minute, but the goal was disallowed because of the offside.
A late goal by Sevilla's striker, Munnas Dabbur, in the 88th minute, was not enough for Israel.
During injury time, an Israeli fan broke into the pitch, and security men who chased him accidentally hit two Polish players.
The Finnish referee Mattias Gestranius decided to stop the match, and only after pressure from Israel's players and staff he agreed to resume play.
With one match to go in the 6-team group G, Israel lost a chance to go directly to the final tournament, which will take place in 12 cities across Europe starting June 12, 2020.
However, Israel can still qualify for the finals through the playoff phase - thanks to the results it achieved in UEFA's Nations League tournament.
Poland secured its spot finals before the match in Israel, and will be joined by Austria, who defeated North Macedonia 2-1 on Saturday as well, and will finish second in the group.
The playoff draw will take place on November 22, and the games will take place on March 26 and March 31.