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Brilliant Thiem Downs Defending Champion Djokovic


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June 7, 2017

So, the Thiem dream is on – and nice guys do win after all. But the  youthful Dominic will have to beat Rafael Nadal in the semi-final if he wants to go all the way at the French Open.

New superstar Thiem defeated defending champion Novak Djokovic in some style, winning 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-0.

It wasn’t a massive shock, given the contrasting years the two have had overall. But the manner of Novak’s ultimate capitulation was surprising indeed.

The legendary John McEnroe suggested that Djokovic had practically given up towards the end. He said: ‘It looks right now as if Djokovic doesn’t want to be on the court. This is tank city.

‘I’m very surprised – especially with the way it ended. The last set was really strange.’

The Serb battled bravely in the first set, which he actually led 4-2. By the time he was passed down the line to complete the match, however, Djokovic almost looked a broken man.

Despite his much-publicised collaboration with Andre Agassi, the former world number one looks vulnerable, even clueless when placed under massive pressure these days.

He is about to drop out of the top two for the first time since 2011 – and if he doesn’t find the answers soon, you wonder if he will ever be back.

But surely such a great player can’t be a shadow of his former self indefinitely? Surely the real Djokovic will return before it is too late? We can live in hope that something will click back into place inside that unfathomable head of his.

You can’t blame Thiem for going for the jugular, when he had never beaten Novak before and suddenly saw his chance to unleash his best tennis.

Remember Rome a few weeks ago? Djokovic smashed Thiem 6-1, 6-0 in the Italian Open there. And bear in mind the Austrian had just beaten Nadal 6-4, 6-3, so he should have been flying high.

What a turn-around against Djokovic, in such a short period of time! Dominic acknowledged: ‘It is amazing for me because before I had a 0-5 record against Novak.’

The Roland Garros semi-final match-up between Thiem and Nadal will be mouthwatering indeed. Rafa looks formidable and will take some beating.

Nadal was in complete control at 6-2, 2-0 when his opponent, fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta had to withdraw from their match due to an abdominal injury.

The winner of Nadal v Thiem should take the title, you feel. Unless of course Thiem reaches the final, and then runs out of steam.

He observed: ‘It is amazing how difficult it is to go deep in a Grand Slam because you have to play the best guys round after round. And it is not getting easier on Friday.’

But that’s the challenge for Thiem. He has to learn to maintain the momentum after a big victory, prevent himself from becoming drained somehow by the thrill.

Only then can he repeat the feat against a player of equal stature. Dominic certainly shouldn’t lack confidence, having beaten two of the best players on the planet so very recently.

And he is a humble, caring kind of guy, so that should help him to keep his feet on the ground. Remember how modest he was after beating Rafa in Italy? Remember how he consoled the bereaved Steve Johnson after beating him in Paris?

Thiem is popular in the locker-room and you can’t see the 23-year-old’s personality changing, even now that he is on the verge of super-stardom.

As for Djokovic, we just want him to change back into what he was. The forlorn former champion admitted: ‘This is a whole new situation for me, not winning a big tournament for eight or nine months, this hasn’t happened for a while.’

Novak has just relinquished the last of the four Grand Slam titles he previously held simultaneously. That was an incredible achievement – so let’s hope he rediscovers the warrior within.

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