|Stefanos Tsitsipas won the ATP Finals title. – AFP/VNA Photo
LONDON — Stefanos Tsitsipas battled back from a set down to beat Dominic Thiem and win the ATP Finals on Sunday, emphatically staking his claim as the leader of the next generation of aspiring global superstars.
The Greek 21-year-old, who won, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), is the youngest champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001 and the fourth first-time champion at the season-ending event in as many years.
It is Tsitsipas's third title of the season and comes a year after he was crowned champion at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
He has charmed the crowd at London's O2 Arena all week and earned his place in the final with an impressive straight-sets win against six-time champion Roger Federer.
Defeat is a bitter disappointment for Thiem, who won five titles this year, including the Indian Wells Masters, and reached a second successive French Open final.
There was little to choose between sixth-seed Tsitsipas and Austria's world number five Thiem in the first set as a total of five break points went begging.
Both players had impressed on serve during the tournament, with Tsitsipas's figures especially striking -- 44 service games won out of 47 leading into the final.
Thiem found himself in a sticky situation at 0-30 down when trailing 5-6 but stayed calm and served himself out of trouble, forcing a tie-break.
The Austrian grabbed a mini-break on the first point of the tie-break and forged into a 5-2 lead but Tsitsipas pulled back to level at 5-5.
The Greek crucially sent a backhand long at 6-6 to hand his opponent set point and Thiem seized his chance after a set lasting 65 minutes.
But within minutes Thiem was under pressure, spraying a forehand wide to hand Tsitsipas the first break of the match.
The Greek held with ease and then produced a forehand down the line to break again, with Thiem threatening to unravel. He had won 12 out of 14 points in the set.
Thiem, who like Tsitsipas plays with a single-handed backhand, held to love in the fifth game to stem the tide but he could make little impression on his opponent's serve.
He netted with a backhand to hand Tsitsipas the set 6-2.
Thiem was rocking again at the start of the deciding set. He saved two break points to hold in the first game but looked increasingly shaky and was broken to trail 1-2.
The Greek was now well on top but out of nowhere Thiem was level at 3-3 after Tsitsipas put a backhand wide.
The Austrian was now playing with much more confidence, unleashing a series of blistering winners and edged ahead 5-4 after another service hold.
The set went to a tie-break. Tsitsipas forged ahead but Thiem pegged him back until the Greek was gifted another mini-break when the Austrian went long.
Tsitsipas made no mistake, serving out to win the title. — AFP