Cecchinato Believing Anything Is Possible Now
Who cares that the last time Cecchinato beat Thiem was five years ago, during a Futures final, and on hard courts, a much different setting than where they'll play their on Friday, on Court Philippe-Chatrier, at Roland Garros, during a Grand Slam semi-final.
But at least Cecchinato has some past experience to rely on against Thiem, who swept Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 earlier Tuesday to reach his third Grand Slam semi-final. Before Roland Garros, Cecchinato had never won a Grand Slam match, losing at the 2015 US Open (l. Mardy Fish), 2016 Australian Open (l. Nicolas Mahut), 2016 Roland Garros (l. Nick Kyrgios), and 2017 Wimbledon (l. Nishikori). The Italian fell in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying last year.
And after his first two sets in Paris this year, Cecchinato couldn't have been thinking, 'Here I come semi-finals.' He lost the first two sets against Romania's Marius Copil before coming back to win 10-8 in the fifth. It was Cecchinato's first five-set match.
But round by round, the first Italian Grand Slam semi-finalist since Corrado Barazzutti at the 1978 Roland Garros has believed a little bit more. Cecchinato celebrated his biggest win on Tuesday, beating former No. 1 Djokovic 6-3, 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(11).
“I'm very, very happy,” Cecchinato said. “When I won the first match in a Grand Slam, I felt good. And match by match, I feel now I can won also the next round. And also against Carreno Busta, before the match I was very focused, and now I'm, it's a special moment for me.”
Pablo Carreno Busta was the first of two Top 10 opponents (David Goffin) Cecchinato knocked out at Roland Garros, which doesn't include his win against Djokovic, No. 22 in the ATP Rankings. If the 25-year-old Italian can transform belief into action again on Friday and beat the seventh-seeded Thiem, Cecchinato will have beaten three Top 10 opponents and find himself in a Grand Slam championship.
“Amazing tennis today. I was two sets up against Novak. In the third, I was a little bit tired. Also, in the fourth, I was... down, and I start to play very well. And on the tie-break, I played very, very well in the tie-break,” Cecchinato said.
“I work very hard on my team, and I'm very focused every match. I work out every day on preparation and also in the tournament. I think this is the key... [It] is a dream for me.”