While all the focus was on a semi final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it has eventually failed to materialise after the defending champion was defeated in the quarter finals. Instead, it is Dominic Thiem who takes on the Spaniard for a place in the final. Nadal can actually become No.2 in the world with the title or if he matches or betters Stanislas Wawrinka’s performance in the final 4.
Nadal has looked deadly enough, blitzing through his draw with minimal effort. He was handed a gift in the quarter finals as his opponent Pablo Carreno Busta was forced to retire during the second set. Nadal was 6-2 2-0 up at the time when his fellow countryman had to retire due to a stomach muscle problem, ending the match early. He will have been disappointed to have won in this way but it did give him extra opportunity for rest which makes him even more dangerous than he has been already. It was thirteen sets in a row for them before the retirement, a record that began in the first round here after Thiem had ended his unbeaten streak in rome.
“I’m playing well, I’m moving ahead,” said Nadal. “Thiem is a tough player. I hope that I won’t lose. I won in Barcelona and Madrid, but I lost to him in Rome… If I play well, I hope that I will be able to book my spot in the final.” In that very same Rome tournament, Thiem won just 1 game in a loss to Djokovic hence expectations seeming to be low for the Austrian coming into the quarter finals. He avenged that loss in some style, controlling the match from start to finish to win 7-6 6-3 6-0 to make his second consecutive French Open semi final. “I didn’t play a different game style,” Thiem said. “I just had a positive win-error statistic, and that was never the case against him before. I could easily have lost the close first set, and it was the key for my first victory against him to then have a good start to the second set as well.
“It’s going to be the fourth match against him in five or six weeks. Not really any big secrets. He’s again in his best shape. So it’s going be the toughest match that you can imagine,” Thiem said of his opponent. Having just won his 100th best of 5 clay match, Nadal is supremely confident. Even though Thiem finally made a breakthrough against an inspired 2017 Nadal, it’s hard to see him repeating that in Nadal’s most successful tournament. A tenth Roland Garros title beckons on Sunday for him although Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka will want to have something to say about that.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in 4 sets