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."
Earlier this fall Dr. Scott Solomon presented the results of a huge heart drug study to an audience of fellow cardiologists in Paris.
The results Solomon was describing looked promising: Patients who took the medication had a lower rate of hospitalization and death than patients on a different drug.
Then he showed his audience another number.
“There were some gasps, or ‘Ooohs,’” Solomon, of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recalled recently. “A lot of people were disappointed.”
One investment analyst reacted by reducing his forecast for peak sales of the drug — by $1 billion.
The number that caused the gasps was 0.059. The audience was looking for something under 0.05.
What it meant was that Solomon’s promising results had run afoul of a statistical concept you may never have heard of: statistical significance. It’s an all-or-nothing thing. Your statistical results are either significant, meaning they are reliable, or not significant, indicating an unacceptably high chance that they were just a fluke.
The concept has been used for decades. It holds a lot of sway over how scientific results are appraised, which studies get published, and what medicines make it to drugstores.
But this year has brought two high-profile calls from critics, including from inside the arcane world of statistics, to get rid of it — in part out of concern that it prematurely dismisses results like Solomon’s.
Significance is reflected in a calculation that produces something called a p-value. Usually, if this produces a p-value of less than 0.05, the study findings are considered significant. If not, the study has failed the test.
Solomon’s study just missed. So the apparent edge his drug was showing over the other medication was deemed insignificant. By this criterion there was no “real” difference.
Solomon believes the drug in fact produced a real benefit and that a larger or longer-lasting study could have reached statistical significance.
“I’m not crying over spilled milk,” he said. “We do set the rules. The question is, is that the right way to go about it?”
He’s not alone in asking that question.
“It is a safe bet that people have suffered or died because scientists (and editors, regulators, journalists and others) have used significance tests to interpret results,” epidemiologist Kenneth Rothman of RTI Health Solutions in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Boston University wrote in 2016.
The danger is both that a potentially beneficial medical finding can be ignored because a study doesn’t reach statistical significance, and a harmful or fruitless medical practice could be accepted simply because it does, he said in an email.
The p-value cutoff for significance Is “a measure that has gained gatekeeper status ... not only for publication but for people to take your results seriously,” says Northwestern University statistician Blake McShane.
It’s no wonder that a statistician, at a recent talk to journalists about the issue just before Halloween, displayed a slide of a jack-o’-lantern carved with this sight, obviously terrifying to anyone in science or medicine: “P = .06.”
McShane and others argue that the importance of the p-value threshold is undeserved. He co-authored a call to abolish the notion of statistical significance, which was published in the prestigious journal Nature this year. The proposal attracted more than 800 co-signers.
Even the American Statistical Association, which had never issued any formal statement on specific statistical practices, came down hard in 2016 on using any kind of p-value cutoff in this way. And this year it went further, declaring in a special issue with 43 papers on the subject, “It is time to stop using the term “statistically significant’ entirely.”
What’s the problem? McShane and others list several:
— P-value does not directly measure the likelihood that the outcome of an experiment just is a fluke. What it really represents is widely misunderstood, even by scientists and some statisticians, said Nicole Lazar, a statistics professor at the University of Georgia.
— Using a label of statistical significance “gives more certainty that is actually warranted,” Lazar said. “We should recognize the fact that there is uncertainty in our findings.”
— The traditional cutoff of 0.05 is arbitrary.
— Statistical significance does not necessarily mean “significant” — or that a finding is important practically or scientifically, Lazar says. It might not even be true: Solomon cites a large heart drug study that found a significant treatment effect for patients born in August but not July, obviously just a random fluctuation.
— The term “statistical significance” sets up a goal line for researchers, a clear measure of success or failure. That means researchers can try a little bit too hard to reach it. They may deliberately game the system to get an acceptable p-value, or just unconsciously choose analytic methods that help, McShane and Lazar said.
— That can distort the effects not only of individual experiments, but also the cumulative results of studies on a given topic, so that overall a drug can look “a lot better than it actually is,” McShane said.
What should be done instead? Abolish the bright line of statistical significance, and just report the p-value along with other analyses to give a more comprehensive outline of what the test result may mean, McShane and others say.
It may not be as clear-cut as a simple declaration of significance or insignificance, but “we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on,” Lazar said. “I think it will be easier to weed out the bad work.”
Not everybody buys the idea of doing away with statistical significance. Prominent Stanford researcher Dr. John Ioannidis says that abolition “could promote bias. Irrefutable nonsense would rule.” Although he agrees that a p-value standard of less than 0.05 is weak and easily abused, he believes scientists should use a more stringent p-value or other statistical measure instead, specified before the experiment is performed.
McShane said that although calls for abolishing statistical significance have been raised for years, there seems to be more momentum lately.
“Maybe,” he said, “it’s time to put the nail in the coffin on this one for good.”
Iran’s supreme leader supports the government’s decision to increase gasoline prices and says that those setting fire to public property during protests against the hikes are “bandits” backed by the enemies of Iran, the country’s state television reported Sunday.
The comments by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came a day after protesters angered by Iran raising government-set gasoline prices by 50% had blocked traffic in major cities and occasionally clashed with police. That came after a night of demonstrations punctuated by gunfire, in violence that reportedly killed at least one person.
The report quoted Khamenei as saying that those violent protesters were supported by counterrevolutionaries and Iran’s enemies abroad. Khamenei also acknowledged some were upset about the higher prices.
He urged security forces to “implement their tasks,” without elaborating.
Khamenei’s description of some protesters and his instructions to security forces suggest authorities may be preparing to quash the demonstrations that began on Friday and quickly spiraled out across the country.
The protests have put renewed pressure on Iran’s government as it struggles to overcome the U.S. sanctions strangling the country’s economy after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.
Though largely peaceful, the latest demonstrations devolved into violence in several instances, with online videos purporting to show police officers firing tear gas at protesters and mobs setting fires.
While representing a political risk for President Hassan Rouhani ahead of February parliamentary elections, they also show widespread anger among Iran’s 80 million people who have seen their savings evaporate amid scarce jobs and the collapse of the national currency, the rial.
The demonstrations took place in over a dozen cities in the hours following Rouhani’s decision early Friday to cut gasoline subsidies to fund handouts for Iran’s poor. Gasoline in the country still remains among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping up to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter of gas — 50% up from the day before. That’s 13 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. A gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. costs $2.60 by comparison.
Police fired tear gas at protesters holding out at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as overnight clashes resumed Sunday, and opposition lawmakers criticized the Chinese military for joining a cleanup to remove debris from streets.
A large group of people arrived to try to clean up a debris-strewn roadway near the campus but were warned away by protesters.
Riot police lined up a few hundred meters (yards) away and shot several volleys of tear gas at the protesters, who sheltered behind a wall of umbrellas across an entire street.
The faceoff came hours after intense overnight clashes in which the two sides exchanged tear gas and gasoline bombs that left fires blazing in the street. Many protesters retreated inside the Polytechnic campus, where they have barricaded entrances and set up narrow access control points.
Protesters, who occupied several major campuses for much of last week, have largely retreated, except for a contingent at Polytechnic. That group is also blocking access to the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel, one of the three main road tunnels that link Hong Kong Island with the rest of the city.
Elsewhere, workers and volunteers — including a group of Chinese soldiers who came out from their barracks — cleared roads of debris Saturday as most of the protesters melted away.
There were scattered incidents of protesters arguing and clashing with people clearing roadways, and in one instance, throwing a gasoline bomb near City University of Hong Kong.
Opposition lawmakers issued a statement criticizing the Chinese military for joining the cleanup. The military is allowed to help maintain public order, but only at the request of the Hong Kong government.
Dozens of Chinese troops, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, ran out in loose formation near Hong Kong Baptist University and picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street
The Hong Kong government said that it had not requested the military’s assistance, describing it as a voluntary community activity.
The Education Bureau announced that classes from kindergarten to high school would be suspended again on Monday because of safety concerns.
Classes have been canceled since Thursday, after the bureau came under criticism for not doing so earlier.
The city’s anti-government protests have been raging for more than five months.
They were sparked by a government decision to submit legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula implemented in 1997, when Britain returned the territory to China.
The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by Communist China, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.
Bolivia’s increasingly violent political crisis is exposing historical racial, ethnic and geographic divides that many thought had been overcome after 14 years of rule by the Andean nation’s first indigenous president and a new “plurinational” constitution, analysts say.
While regionally Sunday’s resignation of Evo Morales marked the exit of the last member of the wave of leftist leaders who took power in South America in recent decades, inside Bolivia the departure of the president who had stabilized the chronically unstable nation was a political earthquake that has re-opened old cracks.
Analysts say the movement to oust Morales was an urban middle-class revolt against what opponents said was fraud in his re-election and his repeated bids to retool the constitution to extend his rule through four terms. After weeks of protests, military leaders urged Morales to step down.
With Morales living in exile in Mexico, largely rural indigenous protesters, some coca leaf growers, are now filling the streets to demand the return of the Aymara former president.
“He is indigenous like me,” said Macario Chura, a poor altiplano farmer, in a recent march to demand the return of Morales from exile.
From Mexico, Morales has encouraged his followers to keep up the pressure, angrily tweeting that the killing of eight of his supporters Friday in the central town of Sacaba was a “massacre” and calling the forces that toppled him racist. The nation’s Ombudsman’s Office said Saturday that 23 people have been killed in violence since the disputed Oct. 20 election.
“A 14-year political cycle has ended,” said Marcelo Silva, a political science professor at the Higher University of San Andrés in La Paz. “We are living post-Evoism, and this brings tensions and uncertainties that complicate the transition until a new political project emerges.”
Racist discourses and regional rivalries have re-emerged in a nation divided between a wealthier, more European-descended lowland east and a more indigenous, poorer, highland west.
“It is worrying that in spite of 14 years (of Morales rule) and a new constitution that enshrines a plurinational state these endemic contradictions have not been resolved,” Silva said.
Morales upended politics on Jan. 22, 2006 when he took power in a nation long ruled by light-skinned descendants of Europeans even though 65% of the population identify themselves as members of an ethnic group. His election was hailed as a milestone achievement for the nation's indigenous population which had not gained the right to vote until 1952.
He ushered in a new constitution that created a Congress with seats reserved for Bolivia's smaller indigenous groups and recognized the Andean earth deity Pachamama instead of the Roman Catholic Church. The charter also "refounded" Bolivia as a "plurinational" state, allowing self-rule for the nation's indigenous peoples.
But Bolivia’s commercial hub, the eastern city of Santa Cruz, remained an opposition stronghold and was a center for the protests that ultimately helped oust him from power. When Morales held a 2016 referendum on removing term limits, voters turned him down. He then upset many people by getting Bolivia's top court to throw out the limits, allowing him to seek a fourth term in this year's election. His opponents called the move illegal.
He claimed victory in the Oct. 20 ballot, but unexplained lapses in reporting some results drew allegations of vote fraud and set off weeks of protests. His support weakened, and finally a push by the chief of the Bolivian military led him to resign.
But now that he is gone, many worry the country could return to politically unstable pre-Morales times. By one count, Bolivia has had more than 190 coup attempts and revolutions since its 1825 independence in a repetitive cycle of conflict between political elites in urban areas and disenfranchised by mobilized rural sectors.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a statement Saturday saying she was concern that in the wake of the Sacaba killings “Bolivia could spin out of control if the authorities do not handle it sensitively and in accordance with international norms.”
Meanwhile, interim President Jeanine Añez has said her government has two main tasks: to pacify the country and hold new elections within three months.
But just weeks into power, some of her decisions have seemed unrelated to these tasks. She has broken relations with the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, pulled Bolivia out of left-leaning regional blocs ALBA and Unasur, and fired almost all the ambassadors named by Morales.
At a recent meeting in Brazil of the BRICS group of emerging economies, Russian President Vladimir compared the situation in Bolivia to the chaos that ensued in Libya following the 2011 death of Moammar Gadhafi.
“They have no leadership at all. It's similar to the situation in Libya, though there is no direct armed intervention,” Putin said.