In a repeat of the Madrid Master’s final played last month, the seventh seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem got his revenge against the second seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany who was clearly affected by three consecutive five set matches he played in the tournament. Zverev, who had gone in to the tournament having won titles in Munich, Madrid and a runner up finish in Rome, ran away with the match after a close first set to emerge a 6-4,6-2,6-1 winner on court Phillip Chattrier on Tuesday.
Thiem will next play the Italian Marco Cecchinato, ranked 72nd in the world and a surprise package of the tournament. In one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament so far, Cecchinato who entered the Open with a 8-9 record in 2018 which includes a maiden win at the Hungarian Open in Budapest in late April, beat the 2016 champion Novak Djokovic 6-3,7-6(2),1-6,7-6(11) on court Suzanne-Lenglen to thwart the Serb’s comeback bid after a right elbow injury.
The Italian who had rallied from a two set deficit in his opening round match against the Romanian Marius Copil to win 10-8 in the fifth, saved four set points in the fourth set against the former world number, but was not to be denied the biggest win of his career. In four previous appearances at a grand slam so far, Cecchinato had lost all four, but has now won five straight matches.
Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro have won their rain interrupted quarter finals in four sets on Thursday as they set up a blockbuster semi final at the Roland Garros in Paris for the second grand slam of 2018. The top ranked Nadal looked in much better form as he came from behind to beat the diminutive Argentine Diego Schwartzman, while Del Potro ensured that an Argentine will progress to the semi final at French Open for the first time since 2009when the Tower of Tandil was beaten by the eventual champion Roger Federer.
Nadal who saw his consecutive set streak at Roland Garro end at 37 against the 11th seeded Schwartzman, clinched the two points he needed to level the tie at a set apiece and then breezed through the next two with relative ease in his 4-6,6-3,6-2,6-2 win to secure his 11th appearance in the Semi-finals in Paris.
It was the first set he dropped in five matches this year as he fell short of Sweden’s Bjorn Borg’s record of 41 straight sets. Nadal thus joins Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors as the only men to have reached the last four of one Grand Slam championship atleast 11 times. Federer has reached the last four at Wimbledon 12 times, while Jimmy Connors reached the Semi-finals at the U.S. Open 11 times.
The fifth seeded Argentine, ranked sixth in the world, makes a return to the last four after nine years. In 2009 Del Potro led Roger Federer by 2-1 in sets before the Swiss maestro rallied to win and five and went on to claim his only title in Paris which helped him complete the Career slam.
The match resumed at 6-6, 5-5 in the first set tie-break which Del Potro won 7-5. The 2014 U.S. Open champion Cilic, won four games in a row from 5-5 in the second set and had a 3-1 lead in the third before the Argentine turned it out around with a five game streak of his own. Del Potro had 19 aces and had 31winners. Cillic had 74 unforced errors in what was his second consecutive quarter final in Paris.
The 2009 U.S. Open champion nicknamed the Tower of Tandil won 7-6(5),5-7,6-3,7-5 in three hours and 50 minutes. Del Potro is now assured a place in the top 4, a position he last held in February 2014. Nadal leads Del Potro 9-5 in career meetings and in their only other meeting in Paris, Nadal triumphed in straight sets in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Semi-final line up has been set in the Women’s singles and it promises to be a mouth watering match ups. The all American Semi-final between the thirteenth seeded Madison Keys and the 10th seeded Sloane Stephens will be a repeat of the U.S. Open final in 2017 which was won by Stephens.
On Tuesday, Stephens was in devastating form as she outclassed the fourteenth seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3,6-1 on court Phillip Chattrier. Keys had a relatively tougher passage but was always in command against the Ukrainian Yulia Putintseva as she won 7-6(5),6-4.
The other Semi-final pits the top ranked Simona Halep of Romania, still searching for her maiden grand slam title against the 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza, seeded third. On Wednesday, the Spaniard was in dazzling form as she demolished the former champion Sharapova 6-2,6-1 on court Phillip Chattrier.
The Russian had six double faults and dropped serve six times in the match and broke serve only once. Halep, a former finalist in 2014 (lost to Sharapova), dropped the first set in a tie-break against the former world number one Angelique Kerber of Germany. The Romanian, Australian Open finalist (lost to Wozniacki) then rallied to complete a 6-7(2),6-3,6-2 win on court Suzanne-Lenglen.
Muguruza, the reigning Wimbledon champion, leads Halep 3-1 in their career head to head, but the world number one won their only previous encounter on clay in 2015. Stephens is still to lose a set in two meetings against Keys and their matchup ensures an American will contest the final on Saturday.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]