Dominic Thiem ends Novak Djokovic’s French Open hopes in Paris

Austrian sets up repeat of last year’s final against Rafael Nadal

Austria’s Dominic Thiem  plays a forehand during his French Open men’s singles semi-final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia  at Roland Garros in Paris. Photograph:  Julian Finney/Getty Images

Austria’s Dominic Thiem plays a forehand during his French Open men’s singles semi-final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia at Roland Garros in Paris. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

 

Dominic Thiem produced a stunning upset over Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals to end the world number one’s hopes of holding all four Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic had made repeating the feat, which he achieved with his first title at Roland Garros in 2016, a huge target but Thiem cemented his status as the heir apparent to Rafael Nadal on clay with a dramatic 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5 victory.

A roller-coaster of a fifth set, which included a rain break, saw Thiem miss two match points serving at 5-3 before eventually clinching it on his third chance.

Djokovic was a lot more focused at the restart, with conditions better but still cool and breezy, forcing Thiem to string exceptional shots together just to win points.

The Austrian fourth seed, who had led 3-1 in the third set when play was called off on Friday, will take on Nadal on Sunday in a repeat of last year’s final.

He was comfortably beaten in straight sets 12 months ago but is improving all the time and defeated Nadal on clay for a fourth successive season in Barcelona in April.

The 25-year-old had undoubtedly been in the ascendancy on Friday evening, with Djokovic allowing the windy conditions to get into his head.

The world number one’s haste to leave the court led to speculation he had forced the tournament referee’s hand in cancelling play when it was not actually raining, but officials insisted it was the stormy conditions that prompted the questionable decision.

Djokovic was a lot more focused at the restart, with conditions better but still cool and breezy, forcing Thiem to string exceptional shots together just to win points.

The pressure told as Djokovic retrieved the break, levelling at 4-4, and he threatened another break in the next game. Thiem enjoyed a large slice of luck as, after failing to put away two smashes, his volley dropped dead off the top of the net.

That seemed to swing the momentum and, at 5-6, the magnitude of what was at stake appeared to affect Djokovic.

He did not take kindly to a time violation at 15-15 and bizarrely began rushing to the net, which Thiem finally exploited on his fourth set point.

Djokovic received another warning, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct, and made sure the umpire knew exactly what he thought of the time violation at the change of ends.

A break of serve for 2-1 got Djokovic off on the right foot in the fourth set only for Thiem to break back with an outrageous net cord, the ball spinning up off the tape and over the top seed’s head.

A third straight break gave Djokovic the advantage once more but both men were finding it difficult to hold serve into the wind and the Austrian levelled again at 4-4.

Thiem was a game away at 5-4 but showed a chink of fallibility at just the wrong time, double-faulting to give away a break, which allowed Djokovic to serve out the set.

The momentum seemed to be with the Serbian but Thiem did well to grind out a hold for 2-1 and got his reward with a break in the next game as Djokovic, who was still strangely choosing to come to the net a lot of the time, netted a volley.

The top seed was on the ropes having just saved a break point at 1-4 when a sudden, sharp shower came to his rescue.

After a delay of an hour – meaning a knock-on delay for the women’s final – the players returned, and Djokovic looked like he had repaired the damage, saving a second break point and then getting back on serve at 3-4.

But the edginess that had been evident throughout returned in an awful service game from the top seed, giving Thiem the chance to serve for the match.

The Austrian looked like he had it at 40-15 only to play four dreadful points, allowing victory to slip from his grasp.

Djokovic levelled at 5-5 but serving into the wind he once again faltered and a netted forehand brought up a third match point, which Thiem took with a forehand winner.

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