September 29, 2020
Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem already seem destined for an epic semi-final clash at Roland Garros.
But fourth seed Daniil Medvedev won’t be fulfilling any such potential this time round.
The meltdown king smashed his racquet and was penalised the final point in a bad-tempered second-set tie-break.
Hungarian Marton Fucsovics stayed calmer and came through 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-1.
Noisy supporters from both camps had attempted to rile the players in a feisty atmosphere.
With the clock almost taking us into Tuesday, this was a late-night horror show from the temperamental Russian.
Yet it came as no massive surprise. Medvedev is used to stumbling at the first hurdle in Paris.
And of course Nadal and Thiem are equally used to meeting at the business end of the French Open.
There were threats to both Rafa and Domi’s progress goong into Roland Garros, however.
Thiem had just won the US Open and we wondered whether that might make him vulnerable to some kind of psychological hangover.
Meanwhile Nadal had served so badly in Rome that many were concerned he wouldn’t have time to put things right for his favourite tournament.
All such worries appear to have been unfounded.
In Nadal’s case, normal service has been resumed. If slightly slower.
The Spaniard defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Ominously he achieved an 82 per cent first serve success rate against the Belarusian.
And Nadal’s humility and focus are almost frightening as he tries for an incredible thirteenth French Open title.
Rafa said: ‘I’m trying to serve a high percentage and then increase the speed and aggressiveness.
‘I’ll try to be happy about every single improvement. I’m not going to make a mistake. The attitude and incentive is always there.’
Thiem’s performance was perhaps even more impressive against a former Wimbledon finalist.
He carefully dismantled fellow US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3- 6-3.
And Domi’s mind also seems perfectly in tune with the challenges he faces.
Of Nadal, Domi claimed: ‘He is still the huge favourite here.’ That immediately takes pressure off Thiem to win his second successive Slam.
And the younger man isn’t worried by the chilly conditions or unpopular balls at Roland Garros either.
He explained: ‘Conditions? I’m used to them. I’m from Austria and we have many days like that.
‘And then from junior times there were many tournaments with similar conditions in March in places like Croatia or the Czech Republic. Cold, heavy balls. So I like these conditions.’
He probably doesn’t deep down. But he won’t let any discomfort distract him from his purpose.
And that flexible, adaptable attitude bodes well for next summer.
You wonder whether Thiem might finally shine on the grass at Wimbleon 2021 too.
It is definitely possible as Domi enjoys his prime continues to grow in mental strength.
Sadly the popular Frenchman and eighth seed Gael Monfils couldn’t adapt to the unusual weather at his home Slam.
Monfils lost 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6 to Alexander Bublik. Any hopes the home crowd had of a comeback were swiftly thwarted.
Top entertainer Monfils is another star we would love to see going deep at Wimbledon 2021.
And Serena Williams always captivates us at the All England Club too.
She had some anxious moments in the first set against her compatriot Kristie Ahn.
But Serena won the big points and then romped away 7-6 (7-2), 6-0. She loves Paris. She loves the clay. And she remains a contender.