Roland Garros Quarter Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Dominic Thiem

Roland Garros

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Roland Garros’ defending champion Novak Djokovic (2) takes on the fancied future champ Dominic Thiem (6) in the quarter-finals- who will win the sixth installment of what has been, so far, a Serbian dominated rivalry?

Every time Dominic Thiem has made a significant step in his career – reaching his first slam semi (Roland Garros ’16), qualifying for his first ATP world tour finals (WTF ’16), or beating Rafa Nadal in a clay ATP 1000 tournament (Rome ’17) – Novak Djokovic has been waiting in the next round to remind Thiem just how much he has to learn.

At this season’s French Open, Thiem’s career milestone is meeting his highest ever seeded position in a slam draw. The sixth seed could have been forgiven for not reaching the quarter-finals, after a career best run of results (Barcelona final, Madrid final, Rome semis) for having a letdown and suffering an upset at the hands of Simone Bolelli, Steve Johnson or Horacio Zeballos, but he has lived up to expectations, exceeded them, even, by reaching the last eight without dropping a set.

Progress has not been as serene for defending champ Djokovic who dropped two sets to Diego Schwartzman in the third round and struggled in the first set of his fourth round match versus Albert Ramos-Vinolas, but Djokovic has tended to struggle early on in slams and the second seed is looking as good as he has at a slam since he last won one 12 months ago in Paris, and as good as he has since winning Doha at the start of this season.

A couple of weeks ago, against Thiem in Rome, Djokovic finally looked like he might be finally hitting the form fitting of a world No.2, beating the Austrian 6-1, 6-0 in a performance in which he executed the consistently high quality blend of offense and defense which made him the player to beat from Wimbledon ’14 to Roland Garros ’16, the game which has the answer to everything and asks his opponent one too many uncomfortable questions, questions which did not just make Thiem feel awkward, but humbled him, reminded him he may be competing in ATP 1000 finals and beating clay court greats but he still had plenty to work on when it came to his tennis.

A tired and emotionally spent Thiem played into Djokovic’s hands in Rome that day, giving the Serbian a much welcomed mix of rhythm and errors, but the sixth seed will have the energy he needs in the Roland Garros quarters to execute the controlled aggression necessary to defeat a Djokovic who, while not at the heights he was when they met in Paris a year back, is, if his first four matches are anything to go by, at his best in best of five at slams, a format which gives him time to find his game and unravel his rival’s, rivals who may have it in them to take a set or two but who find the effort to achieve that feat leaves them spent at the business end of a five setter, in the fourth and fifth sets, the time when Djokovic taps into the deeper reservoirs of his tank and finds he still has plenty running, more than enough to run his rival over.

Thiem is strong enough to stay on his feet, however, if the match goes deep, and if he can stay with Djokovic and hit through him, show he has learned his lessons from their Miami ’16 fourth round encounter (Thiem, reaching back to back last 16s in ATP 1000s for the first time, failed to convert 14 of 15 break points) and take his chances, the sixth seed may be able to tap into Djokovic’s greater fragility over the last 12 months, the inconsistency which has seen him go from big wins to even bigger losses in the space of a round, get the second seed wondering just how much he wants to be out there fighting a five setter versus someone of the power and clay court skill of Thiem, and make Djokovic no longer the stumbling block tripped on after clearing one of his milestones, but instead, for the first time in six meetings, one of the steps he dashes across on his way to another class in what is becoming a very impressive learning curve, a potential last four match with Rafa Nadal.

The Tennis Review

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
This entry was posted in Clay Court Season 2017, Dominic Thiem, French Open, Novak Djokovic, Preview, Roland Garros 2017 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.