The men’s Final Four is set at the French Open and with the Top 4 players in the world, it’s one of the best in quite a while.
Today, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem joined Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the semifinals after dominating performances.
Djokovic put a halt to Alexander Zverev’s recent run, confounding the German in a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win.
Zverev played well early, missing on several break chances until 4-all when he finally broke through. Serving for the set, though, double faults, which plagued him all day, was his downfall.
Djokovic broke back, got on a run and proceeded to win 15 of the last 19 games in comfortable fashion. And now, he’s that much closer to a second Career Slam.
“The longer I play in my career or the further I go, the sense of history-making is only getting stronger,” said Djokovic.
“That’s one of the greatest motivations I have, obviously. I think there is no better way to make history of the sport than to win slams and play your best in the biggest events, and obviously try to stay No. 1 as long as you can. Results-wise, those are the pinnacle achievements that you can have in our sport.”
For his size, Zverev just doesn’t bring the fear he needs to against the better players. And staying sharp over five sets I think is mentally challenging for the 22-year-old.
Once he blew that opening set, you could sense Zverev didn’t think he could win three of the next four, and the match was over.
“From the seedings, I should be in the quarters,” Zverev said. “I’m at a stage where I could go further. But once the first set slipped away, it was difficult to play him.
“I really thought that the first set should have gone my way. And then I played three really bad games. Once he’s in control, he’s very tough to beat. He’s World No. 1 for a reason.”
Against the best, at this level, you can not give up that kind of control.
On Lenglen, Thiem made quick work of Karen Khachanov outclassing the Russian 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Again, like Zverev, Khachanov at 6-foot-6 doesn’t play like a guy that big. And Thiem just got him moving, forcing Khachanov into errors and it was a pretty easy afternoon for the Austrian.
“I think every match I got better and better,” said Thiem. “First two opponents were very tough because they also didn’t give any rhythm, and they didn’t have anything to lose. So these were two very tough matches. From the third round on, it got a lot better. And for sure the match against Gael and also today was very good. I’m happy with the way I’m playing.”
It was a disappointing performance from Khachanov who as playing in his first Slam quarterfinal. He’ll be back.
“I felt today that he’s one of the best on clay,” said Khachanov. “I felt it on court, not only talking. Because I was watching his matches, and I knew how he’s playing. Today was really tough for me. He was always putting me in tough situations for me to play aggressive… Of course, I could have done better. I could maybe miss less, make more winners. But that’s always a question when you know how is the other guy playing.”
So good news for both Djokovic, Thiem and the sport of tennis, it seems like every one is fit, fresh and healthy for what should be an incredible semifinal line-up.
The bad news: The weather! But they sometimes get it wrong.
I already talked about the Federer-Nadal semifinal, so here are some thoughts on Djokovic-Thiem.
Novak Djokovic v Dominic Thiem
Djokovic has the edge here 6-2 having won recently in Madrid. They split two at the French in 2016 and 2017, and right now, I think Thiem is a better player now than he was a few years ago. The problem is, I think the same of Djokovic.
And since Djokovic hasn’t dropped a set and has been some domination of late in Slams – he’s won 26 straight now – I feel like Novak is in better form.
Of course there’s this issue: Thiem will have to go through Djokovic and then probably Nadal. That’s tough.
“It’s incredibly difficult to win a Grand Slam, especially for us players who haven’t won one yet,” Thiem said. “Because if everything goes quite normal, we have to beat two players with 15 or more Grand Slams.
“But I will step on the court tomorrow, try everything, of course, give everything. I hope it’s going to be positive in the end, but the challenge is huge. Novak is in very good shape again, probably playing his best tennis of his life. I’m in the semifinals with maybe the three best players of all time, so everybody can see how tough the way it is for me.”
But Thiem has a shot. He’ll have to rip his groundies, be solid off his serve and mind his court positioning because he tends to veer really far back. That’s trouble against Djokovic.
“Dominic is deservedly where he is, one of the top four guys, especially on clay,” said Djokovic. “That’s where he’s playing his best tennis. He’s got that tremendous power in his game, especially with forehand and serve. I think his backhand has also improved a lot in the past couple of years.
“Seems like his relationship with Massu has helped him a lot, also mentally, I think, in big matches. Seems like it has been working really well. If he continues playing this way, not just on clay, but in general, I think we will probably be seeing him more often on different surfaces in the final stages of the tournament.”
And we will see Thiem in many more finals, just not this weekend. I think Novak is too strong, too focused and after last year’s debacle in Paris, too motivated.
The Pick: Djokovic in 4
As for Roger and Rafa, I still think Rafa should win rather easily. Federer will have to play mind-blowingly good and even then he could get destroyed. But like he joked, maybe Rafa’s gets sick or something wacky happens.
But the big question mark is going to be the weather tomorrow. If there is significant rain and the day gets wiped out, that becomes more of an issue for Federer because playing in cooler, damp weather on back-to-back days against a Nadal and then a Djokovic is going to be a problem. Whereas I don’t see it as much of an issue for the other three, barring a very long match.
That’s why for Roger, he’ll want to get his match done and should he win, get that day off.
So that’s one of the subplots. Otherwise, even though Djokovic and Thiem played today, they should be fine and if the weather allows, it should be a great day of semifinals.
Tennis Channel and NBC have live coverage from 5am with the two women’s semifinals which got the very short end of the stick being played at the same time and neither on Center Court!
FRIDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE (Singles)
Court Philippe CHATRIER Début à 12h50
Roger FEDERER (SUI)  v Rafael NADAL (ESP) 
Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB)  v Dominic THIEM (AUT)
Court Suzanne LENGLEN Début à 11h00
Ashleigh BARTY (AUS)  v Amanda ANISIMOVA (USA)
Court Simonne MATHIEU Début à 11h00
Johanna KONTA (GBR)  v Marketa VONDROUSOVA (CZE)
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