Thiem ends Djokovic’s Slam winning streak

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY HOWARD FENDRICH As­so­ci­ated Press

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.”

CHRISTOPHE ENA AP

Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem cel­e­brates winning his semi­fi­nal match of the French Open ten­nis tour­na­ment.

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