Novak Djokovic, still maintaining the world number two ranking and widely considered the best multi-surface player in the world, was beaten by Austrian Dominic Thiem to set up a semifinal confrontation against Rafael Nadal that many observers believe will be the true final.
The players remaining in Men’s Singles on the other side of the draw, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka, while great tennis players all, do not have the clay court game to match up well with Nadal.
Thiem, however, has beaten Nadal on clay this season. His win against Djokovic was a straight-set win. Thiem needed a tiebreaker to take the first set by the score of 7 – 6, but then he clinically dissected Djokovic 6 – 3 in the second, and then backed that with a 6 – 0 third set.
Thiem and Djokovic have met six times previously. This is the first time Thiem has beaten him and to do so in such convincing fashion creates great, eager expectations of the match between he and Nadal.
Djokovic, with his all-round game, has done well in Paris. Since 2011, he has lost only to Roger Federer, Nadal and Stan Wawrinka. Two of those losses, however, did come at the expense of Nadal in the final of the tournament.
More impressive concerning Thiem’s win, perhaps, is that it has been 12 years since Djokovic lost a set at love in a grand slam, when Gael Monfils did so, only to see Djokovic recover to win their match at the 2005 U.S. Open.
Thiem has fought his way up to the number seven ranking in the world and he would have to be given a fair chance against Nadal, despite losing to Nadal twice earlier during the current clay court season.
Nadal is seeking his 10th French Open victory and probably would already have it, had a wrist injury not forced him to withdraw last year following the third round.