Rising star Dominic Thiem served up an upset of seismic proportions in the 2017 French Open quarterfinals on Saturday, beating defending champion Novak Djokovic 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 to set up a marvellous semifinal clash with nine-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Billed as the match of a stat-studded quarterfinal lineup, Thiem finally overcame the World No.2 for the first time in his career, improving his head-to-head record against the Serbian to 1-5 with the stunning victory.
After losing to Djokovic in the 2016 French Open semifinal and the Rome Masters semifinals, the Austrian knew he had to change something and edged a thrilling tie-break in the opening set to get a definitive advantage in the match.
An energy-sapping 73 minutes went into the first set, which was a veritable see-saw as both players broke on several occasions but eventually the World No.6 clinched the tie-break, a just reward for some sizzling down the line winners from the Austrian.
Thiem was aggressive throughout, at times overtly so, but stuck to his guns and continued in the same vein in the next two sets. Djokovic, in stark contrast began to fade away and once he was broken in the very first game of the second set, Thiem began to build confidence.
The Austrian crucially saved a break point in the sixth game to take a 5-2 lead. While Djokovic held his afterwards, Thiem had no trouble holding his own to take a commanding lead in the tie.
Djokovic had twice come back from a two-set to love deficit in his career, but a memorable comeback never looked on the cards as Them crushed him in the third set, wrapping the match in style.
The final set, as it turned out, took just 20 minutes, with the Austrian utterly dominant as a helpless Djokovic looked out of sorts.
Thiem’s reward for the exhilarating win?
A match against a resurgent Rafael Nadal, a man on a mission to win La Decima. Nadal had a relatively easy passage on the day, as he was leading fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 2-0, when his opponent retired with an lower abdominal injury.
It may seem cruel to play past champions back-to-back but such is the draw that the Austrian will have to dig out a special performance out his hat for the second time in a row if he is to reach his maiden Grand Slam final.