No­vak shows ‘no fight’ in de­feat

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

PARIS: When the time comes, proud cham­pi­ons are sup­posed to re­lin­quish their crowns af­ter fight­ing and snarling to the last mo­ment. No­vak Djokovic ef­fec­tively waved the white flag, bow­ing out of the French Open with a whim­per yes­ter­day.

The 30-year-old Serb, who has pre­vailed in some of the sport’s epic bat­tles on the way to 12 ma­jor ti­tles, was barely recog­nis­able as he ca­pit­u­lated in a 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 de­feat by Aus­trian Do­minic Thiem in the quar­ter-fi­nal, sur­ren­der­ing the third set in 20 min­utes.

The re­sult was all the more re­mark­able as in five pre­vi­ous matches with the 23-year-old, he had lost one set.

Sixth seed Thiem, who to be fair played su­perbly in the first set but must have thought he was fac­ing a Djokovic im­per­son­ator there­after, is yet to drop a set at this year’s tour­na­ment.

“It doesn’t get any eas­ier,” Thiem said on court when asked to com­ment on the prospect of fac­ing favourite Rafa Nadal in the semis.

While Thiem’s part in Djokovic’s down­fall should not be over­looked, it was the Ser­bian world No 2’s as­ton­ish­ing col­lapse that was the talk of Roland Gar­ros.

Dou­ble French Open cham­pion Jim Courier, com­men­tat­ing on the match, said the Serb had shown ‘no fight’.

That was cer­tainly true af­ter the first set as Djokovic, whose new coach An­dre Agassi had al­ready flown home, ap­peared lost and list­less, mis­fir­ing a suc­ces­sion of lame back­hands.

“Ob­vi­ously, noth­ing was go­ing my way and ev­ery­thing his way. Just pretty bad set,” said Djokovic.

“It was de­cided, I think, in the first set to­day. I tried. I lost that cru­cial break in the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond, and he started serv­ing bet­ter, back­ing it up with the first shot. He de­served to win. He was def­i­nitely the bet­ter player.”

It was Djokovic’s first de­feat be­fore the semi-fi­nals in Paris since 2010.

The dan­ger signs were al­ready there in the early stages when Thiem broke the Djokovic serve in the third game. How­ever, Djokovic re­sponded to break back twice in a row, only to drop his own serve at 4-2 with a fore­hand er­ror.

Djokovic piled on the pressure when Thiem served at 4-5 and he had his man in trou­ble at 15-40. Thiem saved the first set point with a vol­ley, then forced a back­hand er­ror on the sec­ond.

The tiebreak was nip and tuck with a suc­ces­sion of points against the serve but Thiem took it when Djokovic shov­elled a tight-look­ing back­hand into the net.

Djokovic dropped serve at the start of the sec­ond set and the ex­pected back­lash never ma­te­ri­alised as Thiem marched to­wards the last four with un­ex­pected ease.

Djokovic raised his fist to the crowd af­ter win­ning a point early in the third but it was ul­ti­mately a hol­low ges­ture. Thiem, who has 22 wins in clay court matches this year and reached fi­nals in Barcelona and Madrid, where he lost to Nadal, is the sec­ond Aus­trian man to reach mul­ti­ple Grand Slam semi­fi­nals af­ter for­mer French Open cham­pion Thomas Muster. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

COURT­ING DIS­AS­TER: World No 2 No­vak Djokovic of Ser­bia was em­bar­rass­ingly knocked out of Roland Gar­ros yes­ter­day by Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0.

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