Dominic Thiem upset Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, to earn his first title of the ATP Tour season.
This is the second year in which Federer lost in the final at Indian Wells. Juan Martin del Potro topped him in three sets in 2018.
The victory gives Thiem a 3-2 head-to-head advantage over Federer. Both players will now turn their focus toward the Miami Open, which begins Monday.
"It's unreal," Thiem said of his win in his post-match interview, per Jose Morgado of Portuguese paper Record. "I had to get used to Roger's game. He was playing amazing in the first set, but I fought into the match after getting a bit lucky in the start of the second set."
The first two sets were mirror images of one another.
Federer broke Thiem's serve in the second game of the match and opened up a 4-1 lead. Thiem broke back in the seventh game to trail 3-4, but Federer responded immediately with another service break and held serve in the ninth game to win the set.
Thiem didn't dwell on his slow start. He broke Federer in the fourth game of the second set and built up a 4-1 lead of his own. That one service break proved to be the difference in the set.
Thiem was particularly effective on his backhand side. When he had time to measure up the shot, his backhand down the line was almost untouchable.
Thiem's confidence grew the longer the match went on. Along with that, he started throwing more power behind his groundstrokes. Although Federer remained sharp as ever, Thiem was striking the ball on a different level.
Federer attempted to counteract Thiem's baseline game by rushing the net when he could in order to cut down on the angles available to the Austrian. The strategy was successful for the most part, but Federer might have outthought himself when serving with the set tied 5-5.
Leading 30-15, Federer tried to lure Thiem to the net with drop shots on back-to-back points. On each occasion, Thiem sprinted up and pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a winner.
The momentum of the match turned completely, and Thiem won four of the next five points to secure the win.
Calling Sunday's win a breakthrough for Thiem might be a stretch. He was the runner-up in the 2018 French Open and a semifinalist in 2016 and 2017. This is, however, his first ATP Tour Masters 1000 win.
The 25-year-old went toe-to-toe with one of the most legendary players in tennis history and was the last man standing. This wasn't a case of Federer throwing the match away, either. To some extent, the back-to-back drop shots illustrated how desperate he was to get the edge on Thiem after little else was working.
The Miami Open gives Thiem an opportunity to continue building some momentum before the clay-court season gets underway.