Thiem ends Djokovic’s Slam winning streak
Novak Djokovic’s 26match Grand Slam winning streak ended in the French Open semifinals because he made some odd strategic choices, because the wild weather bothered him, because the chair umpire got under his skin.
Mostly, though, because Dominic Thiem managed to outperform Djokovic at his own brand of defense-to-offense, speed-and-power baseline game.
Thiem put an end to the No. 1-ranked Djokovic’s bid for a fourth consecutive major championship Saturday with a dramatic 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 victory in a wind-whipped and raininterrupted match that spanned more than four hours over two days.
“I don’t want to point out some reasons or find excuses for this loss,” said Djokovic, who had won nine of his past 10 fivesetters and was 29-9 overall in such matches. “I mean, he took it, he won it, and well done to him.”
It wasn’t easy. Shouldn’t be against Djokovic, who kept digging holes for himself and climbing out.
Thiem wasted two match points with quick unforced errors when serving for the victory at 5-3 in the fifth, but he made his third chance count, smacking a forehand winner to break Djokovic in the last game.
“An epicmatch. I mean, so many ups and downs. And rain, going back to the locker, on court again. Somehow I had the feeling that I had the lead in the whole match, and then at the end, it got so tough,” Thiem said. “Both of us, we could win, and I luckily got the better in the end.”
Djokovic was stopped two victories short of collecting his fourth consecutive major championship, a run that began on the grass at Wimbledon last July, then continued on the hard courts of the U.S. Open and Australian Open.
Instead, it is Thiem, an Austrian ranked No. 4, who now gets a chance to win his first Grand Slam trophy on the red clay of Roland Garros.
Thiem will face 11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday in a rematch of last year’s final. Nadal won that one, part of an 8-4 lead for the Spaniard in their head-tohead series.
“All the time, if someone reaches the finals here, it’s against Rafa,” Thiem said with a laugh.
It will be the fourth straight day that Thiem is in action because of postponements, whereas Nadal will be well-rested, having played his quarterfinal Tuesday and his semifinal Friday, when he beat Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Beating Thiem again would allow Nadal to raise his Grand Slam total to 18 titles, moving him with two of Federer’s record for a man.
On Friday, Thiem had just broken Djokovic to go up a break at 3-1 in the third set when theirmatch was suspended because of a shower. They resumed 18 1/2 hours later, in dry, breezy conditions. The wind that was so fierce Friday – spreading loose, rust-colored clay dust from the court surface all over the place, making for something that seemed like a sandstorm – was muchmore manageable Saturday. It rippled players’ shirts but did not cause havoc with serve tosses and shots the way it had the evening prior.
“One of the worst conditions I have ever been part of,” Djokovic said about Friday. “That’s all I can tell you.”
Austria’s Dominic Thiem celebrates winning his semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament.