Roland Garros SF Preview: Is This Thiem's Time Against Djokovic?
Top seed Novak Djokovic and fourth Dominic Thiem look to cement their outstanding Roland Garros form with a place in Sunday’s championship match. The winner will play second seed Rafael Nadal or third seed Roger Federer on Sunday.
The World No. 1 has won his past 26 Grand Slam matches and is two wins away from completing a second “Nole Slam” by holding all four majors at once. Djokovic looks to join Rod Laver as the only players in history to accomplish this on two separate occasions. He also seeks to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four Grand Slams twice.
“The sense of history-making is only getting stronger. That's one of the greatest motivations I have,” said Djokovic. “There is no better way to make history in 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. Those are the pinnacle achievements that you can have in our sport.”
Djokovic leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Thiem 6-2, but both of Thiem's wins have come on clay. They've split their two previous Roland Garros meetings. Djokovic prevailed in the 2016 semi-finals and Thiem turned the tables in the 2017 quarter-finals. The World No. 1 won their most recent clash last month in the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals.
Despite a track record of success against Thiem, he won’t take the Austrian lightly when they meet on Friday.
“Dominic is deservedly where he is [as] one of the top four guys, especially on clay. That's where he's playing his best tennis,” said Djokovic. “He's got that tremendous power in his game, especially with his forehand and serve. I think his backhand also has improved a lot in the last couple of years.
“It seems like his relationship with Nicolas Massu has helped him a lot, also mentally, in big matches. 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.”
The Serbian is through to the Roland Garros semi-finals for the ninth time and did so without dropping a set. He leads the four semi-finalists in service games held throughout the tournament.
Serving Stats Of 2019 Roland Garros Semi-finalists
||Serve Games Won||Break Points Faced
|Novak Djokovic||63 of 66 (95.5%)||17|
|Roger Federer||75 of 79 (94.9%)||18|
|Rafael Nadal||63 of 68 (92.6%)||18|
||81 of 89 (91%)
**Serving stats courtesy of SMT
Djokovic's clay-court season includes his 33rd ATP Masters 1000 title at the Mutua Madrid Open. Djokovic’s win in the final over Stefanos Tsitsipas was his 200th victory over a Top 10 player. He also finished runner-up in Rome (l. to Nadal).
Thiem has once again turned in a solid clay-court season. In addition to his semi-final finish in Madrid, the 25-year-old defeated Nadal en route to taking the title at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell without dropping a set (d. Medvedev). He holds a 21-3 record at the second major of the year since 2016. By reaching his fourth Grand Slam semi-final, he tied Thomas Muster's record for most Grand Slam semi-final appearances by an Austrian player, man or woman.
Thiem has continued to raise his level against the world's best. He's won eight of his past nine matches against Top 20 players, with two of those victories coming this fortnight. Last month's loss against Djokovic is the only defeat in that stretch.
But despite his impressive results, Thiem is aware of the aura surrounding the other semi-finalists.
“They have a huge advantage only because of their name,” said Thiem. “I think many players don't really believe that they can beat them, which is well-deserved because of all the success and which is also understandable, in a way. But I will step on the court tomorrow and of course give everything. I hope it's going to be positive in the end, but the challenge is huge.”
Thiem has a track record of success against the Big Three and has beaten all of them at least twice on clay. Although he isn’t underestimating the challenge he faces, the Austrian is choosing to embrace it.
“It’s incredibly difficult to win a Grand Slam. Especially for us players who don't have one yet, if everything goes normally, we have to beat two players with 15 or more Grand Slams. I think everybody can imagine how difficult this is,” said Thiem. “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 it’s exciting for me.”