Even with Andre Agassi, it’s not getting better Novak Djokovic. In fact, it’s getting worse. Today, against a guy he had beaten 12 games to one last month in Rome, Djokovic all but quit after losing the first set to Dominic Thiem 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the French Open quarterfinals.
It was Djokovic’s worst loss by games of his career at the French Open. And it ended with Djokovic eating his first Bagel at the event. All of which is even more shocking when you consider how competitive the first set was.
Djokovic and Thiem went toe-to-toe early on. Trading breaks. Battling for position on the baseline and engaging in some breathtaking rallies. It was smashmouth, physical tennis as we expected. Games were long. Points were long. Rallies were long. Djokovic would pull ahead, Thiem would fight back. Rinse, repeat.
Though early on, you could see Djokovic making those uncharacteristic errors we’ve seen him hit all year, and eventually in the breaker Thiem took advantage.
And once the Austrian got up a quick break in the second it felt like it was over. And it was. By the end, Djokovic seemed disinterested even in the changeovers. He wanted off the court and after a 20 minute or so third set, he was. Match over. French Open title defense over.
“Nothing was going my way and everything his way, so pretty bad final set but all in all it was decided in the first set,” Djokovic said.
And you read it right, in Djokovic’s head the match was over after the first set! Let that sink in, the first set! Those words are stunning.
Did Djokovic not know it’s best-of-5? Did he know you can actually come back from a first set loss. Hell, Andy Murray did just that hours later against Kei Nishikori.
And it comes against someone you just beat one-and-love a few weeks ago.
Perhaps it was the early start or the cool wind or the rain from yesterday, but Djokovic’s performance after the first set was downright abysmal. “Tank city,” as John McEnroe apparently called it.
The loss also reminded me of the infamous Sam Querrey match at Wimbledon last year. So maybe something happened again off court. I don’t know, but what I do is with a second baby just months away, all roads lead to Djokovic shutting this whole thing down.
Right now he’s circling the drain and if he keeps playing and keeps losing this way, he’s going right into that drain and that’s it. Career over. And he’s finally starting to get that message.
“Trust me, I’m thinking about many things,” said Djokovic. “Especially in the last couple months. I’m just trying to sense what’s the best thing for me now.
“Obviously there has been a lot of changes with the team and so forth. So excited to work with Andre and the new team. At the same time, I have responsibility to the game itself, towards others. We’ll see. I will see how I feel after Roland Garros and then decide what to do next.”
I think most of us could see this coming, I just didn’t think it would happen in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. But it’s been building and we saw the release today. So let’s see what Novak’s next move is. But this one is going to be tough to recover from.
Amazing what a difference a year makes!
As for Thiem, credit to him for not getting mentally down early in that first set when Djokovic had the break edge. He stuck with it, didn’t let the past clay losses to Novak get to him and he fought back. Ripped his ground strokes, maintained decent could positioning. I just don’t think we can make much of the second and third sets.
Next up for Thiem will be a fourth straight meeting with Rafael Nadal who got through when Pablo Carreno Busta busted an ab muscle in the second set. The injury didn’t change the outcome as the 25-year-old was never going to win. So another easy day for Rafa who hasn’t faced anyone like Thiem who can actually test him
In the late matches, no real surprises with Stan Wawrinka keeping a hammerlock on Marin Cilic winning his eighth straight over the Croatian. It was maybe Stan’s best match of the tournament, so watch out Andy Murray.
Murray dropped the first then seized control from Nishikori in the second after a minor spat with the umpire. Murray is finally back playing ball, but will he be good enough to Stan for a second straight year in the semifinals?
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