Dominic Thiem said a burst of classic English song Sweet Caroline during a stadium lights malfunction helped calm his nerves as he fought back from a set down to reach the Australian Open final on Friday.
The Austrian fifth seed was 0-1 down in the third set to Alexander Zverev when the semi-final was halted for nine minutes to fix a light which had gone out behind the baseline.
But Thiem said the Neil Diamond classic, played to entertain the crowd during the delay, reminded him of good times on skiing holidays with friends.
“I like this song,” he said. “I felt like I was in Austria on skiing holidays, because that’s where they play that song all the time. That loosened me up a bit.”
Thiem went on to win the third and fourth sets for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) victory and a place in his first Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic.
Watch his on-court interview with John McEnroe here:
Thiem came from a set down to outlast his friend, Zverev, and make his first Australian Open final Friday, booking a showdown with seven-time champion Novak Djokovic, a man he called the “king”.
The 26-year-old fifth seed, the first player from Austria ever to reach the Melbourne decider, battled past seventh-ranked Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) on a sweltering evening.
“It was an unreal match, two tie-breakers, so tough and so close. It was almost impossible to break him,” said Thiem. “Being in the Australian Open final is unreal. What a start to the season for me.”
Defending champion Djokovic awaits him after the second seed ended Roger Federer’s dreams in straight sets Thursday to make his eighth Melbourne Park final.
“He’s the king of Australia,” Thiem said of the Serb.
Thiem has his work cut out against the Serb who is on a 12-match unbeaten streak this season and has won all seven of the Australian Open deciders he has contested.
And if Djokovic needs extra motivation, winning on Sunday will see him reclaim the world number one ranking after Rafael Nadal crashed to Thiem in the last eight.
But there is a glimmer of hope – Djokovic is 6-4 in their head-to-heads, but Thiem has won four of the last five.