But tonight, in a hard-fought final between the two, Thiem didn't flinch when he got his chance to take down the GOAT, serving it out at 15 to win the biggest title of his lifetime 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in just over two hours.
After a couple of tough holds at the beginning of the 2nd set, Thiem managed to break Federer in the 4th game (3-1) before consolidating the lead (4-1) and win the set 6-3.
"I lost my two first 1000 finals and here I won it, it feels nearly worth a grand slam". But he grew to like the slow courts here and his three-set semifinal victory over Milos Raonic - in which he won a set from the Canadian for the first time in three matchups and didn't lose serve - prepared him well to take on Federer.
It looked like a another final set breaker in the desert was in store until Thiem hit back-to-back winners off Federer drop shots that set himself up for the break.
There were no break points in the first seven games until Federer threatened, but Thiem held firm.
Also on rt.com OUT!
A dejected Rafael Nadal pulled out of his Indian Wells semi-final against his great rival Roger Federer on Saturday with a right knee injury and said he will turn his attention to getting fit for the clay-court season.
Federer was warming up on another court at the same time as Nadal and figured the match was on.
Drinking piping hot tea doubles cancer risk
However, since the newest study does not have alcohol and tobacco in the equation, it's become far more concerning for most of us. It is generally caused by repeated aggravation to the esophagus by smoke, alcohol, acid reflux and, apparently, heat.
Amazon’s cheapest Kindle gets front light and better screen
If you really must go for the standard Kindle, you can pre-order it today with devices expected to start shipping on April 10th. The new Kindle joins the refreshed Paperwhite as well as the $249 Kindle Oasis to round out the Kindle family .
What we know about Boeing 737 MAX crash and what comes next
The company has a stellar reputation for aircraft design and building - a reputation now on the line. Engineers with the FAA reportedly did not read technical documents submitted by Boeing.
Fans who came to see Federer win another title on Sunday were disappointed, but few could begrudge Thiem his feel-good story.
Thiem claimed his 12th career title - as he noted at the trophy ceremony when he acknowledged Federer.
Thiem earned the only break of the second set in the fourth game and the all-important break in the 11th game of the final set.
"I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete", Nadal said in a statement.
"I had to get used to Roger's game. It was a very good match until the end and I had to fight to serve it out".
Nadal started to melt the deficit down in 2008, playing in two finals more than Roger and having a clear lead in 2009 as well with five more title matches on his tally, standing just four behind Roger overall (25-21).
Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in the men's singles final on day fourteen of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2019 in Indian Wells, California.
A fortunate bounce as a backhand clipped the tape and dribbled over gave him the crucial advantage at 5-3 and helped force a deciding set.