Roger Federer was aiming for a record sixth BNP Paribas Open crown, Thiem was searching for his very first Masters 1000 title. In the end, it was Thiem that was holding the trophy after an impressive 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.
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Photo: Dominic Thiem of Austria holds the championship trophy after his men’s singles final victory against Roger Federer of Switzerland on day fourteen of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2019 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
“It’s unreal,” said Thiem. “It’s a pleasure to compete against Roger in this great final. I lost my last two Masters 1000 finals, but I won this one and it feels as nice as a Grand Slam.
“It was a great week and I think also a very good final today. Just amazing that I got here, my first really big title. I came from a really bad form in all categories and now I’m the champion of Indian Wells. It feels not real at all.”
Both players possess amazing one-handed backhands, but it was Thiem that produced more power from his groundstrokes and eventually wore down the Swiss champion. Thiem hit a total of 24 winners throughout the match.
Thiem had twice before reached a Masters level final, losing in the 2017 and 2018 Madrid Open final. After winning in Indian Wells he is the first Austrian to lift a Masters 1000 trophy since Thomas Muster in Miami in 1997.
“I was in the zone the whole match,” Thiem added. “I had to get used to Roger’s game. In the first set he was playing amazing. It was completely different from my opponents before him. I was struggling to work my way into the match. I had to fight to save those break points early in the second set. It was a very good match until the end and I had to fight to serve it out.”
In the opening set it was Federer that raced to a 3-1 lead only to be broken back, but he pushed again for another break and was able to serve out the first set from 5-3.
Entering the match, Federer had won 20 straight finals when claiming the opening set. After another first set win your money would have been on the Swiss player. Thiem had other ideas and hit back in the second set.
Thiem reeled off 13 of 14 points to take a commanding 4-1 lead. The swing in momentum was swift and Thiem would force a decider without warning.
“I’m not too disappointed,” said Federer. “I feel like he had to come up with the goods, and it did feel like to some extent it was on my racquet. I just came up against somebody who was on the day a bit better when it really mattered.
“That’s how it goes. It’s frustrating and disappointing and sad to some extent, but I have been in these positions so many times… I have been playing every single day for the last three weeks. I can be very happy and proud of that fact.”