Red hot Austrian Dominic Thiem has continued his blazing form as he knocked off the defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 in a rain delayed quarter final on court Suzanne Lenglen on Wednesday afternoon in Paris. He next faces the nine time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain who advanced after compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta retired due to an abdominal injury after only 51 minutes of play on court Philippe Chatrier with Nadal leading 6-2, 2-0.
Thiem lost his serve in the sixth game of the opening set but broke right away and held for 4-4. Djokovic could not capitalize on two break points that would have given hime the set at 5-4 and it went into a tie-break. Thiem held his nerve to clinch it 7-5, the opening set lasting 76 minutes. He rode the momentum to break in the second game of the second set. Thiem saved a break point in the seventh game, and from there on was in complete command of the match as he reeled off the last seven games.
Thiem, winner of the clay court event in Rio De Janeiro in February, is 22-4 on clay this year which also includes a win over Nadal in straight sets in the quarter final of the Rome Masters. Nadal, though, beat Thiem in the final of both Barcelona and Madrid events. He improves to 22-1 on the clay, for the year, and is assured no. 2 ranking if Stanislas Wawrinka does not win a second title on Sunday.
Djokovic will drop outside the top two for the first time since March 2011. It will be Thiem’s second consecutive semi final in Paris and he avenged last years defeat at the hands of Djokovic who went on to complete the career slam and indeed the non calendar slam of holding all four majors.
In a completely one sided match, the 2015 champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, winner of three grand slam titles, was in championship winning form as he breezed past the 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia in three easy sets 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in only one hour and forty minutes on court Suzanne Lenglen. Wawrinka only dropped serve once in the entire match and like Nadal and Thiem has progressed into the last four without dropping a set.
Cilic, known for his service prowess only had 49% first serves in and was broken six times in the match. Wawrinka will rise to a career high no. 2 ranking with a win on Sunday which would be his fourth grand slam title. He won his maiden title at the 2014 Australian Open and added the 2016 U.S. Open last year and added a crown in Paris in 2015 in between those two titles. He only needs to add a Wimbledon title to join Federer, Nadal and Djokovic among the active players to complete a career slam and would be the 9th men’s player overall to accomplish the feat.
Top seeded Andy Murray is the last man through to the last four after coming back from a disastrous first set to beat the eighth seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, in an up and down match, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-1 to book his fifth semi final at the Roland Garros. Murray failed to serve out the third set at 6-5 but won the tie-break decisively 7-0 and from there on it was all one way traffic. He thus avenged his quarter final loss at the U.S. Open last year.
The ladies section of the draw, which is assured of a maiden grand slam winner, has an unfamiliar look to it. The former world number one Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark failed to make good after a solid start as she lost to the unheralded Latvian Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 2-6, 2-6 on a rain dominated Tuesday. She next goes on to play the Swiss Timea Bacsinszky who ended the hopes of the local favourite Kristina Mladenovic with a clinical 6-4, 6-4 win on court Philippe Chatrier.
Simona Halep, the 2014 runner up (loss to Sharapova) and the third seed, completed a remarkable comeback from the brink of an embarrassing defeat as she rallied from 3-6, 1-5 down against the fifth seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Halep broke twice and also made Svitolina save four break points at 5-6 before it went into a tie-break. Svitolina had a match point on Halep’s serve at 6-5, but the Romanian won the next three points to force a decider. The Ukrainian was completely a broken woman and was bageled in the third set. Halep survived to fight another day as she won 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0.
Halep now faces the second seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic who ended French hopes with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over the 28th seeded Carolina Garcia. Pliskova had an early break in the first set but Garcia broke in the tenth game before Pliskova won it 7-3 in the tie-break. Pliskova got the solitary break of serve in the tenth game to clinch the second set 6-4. Should Halep or Pliskova win the title on Saturday the winner will also rise to no. 1 in the WTA rankings.
The following are the line ups in the men’s and women’s singles with my pick mentioned first :-
Dominic Thiem (6) (34-12) v. Rafael Nadal (4) (41-6) ; Nadal leads 4-2
Andy Murray (1) (21-7) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (3) (25-8) ; Murray leads 10-7.
Timea Bacsinszky (30) v. Jelena Ostapenko (-); first meeting
Simona Halep (3) v. Karolina Pliskova (2); Halep leads 4-2.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]