Dominic Thiem  def. Alexander Zverev  6-4 6-2 6-1
Quite aside from the fact that the head to head against friend Dominic Thiem was 4-2, with Alexander Zverev’s only win against the Austrian coming this year in the final of the Madrid Masters, the fact that the No. 2 seed had had to come from 1-2 down three times in a row was bound to take its toll.
Within three games Zverev was clutching at the back of his hamstring, eventually having to call out a trainer for some taping to keep going. It is commendable that he did not take the easy way and retire, but it was clear from early on that his movement was going to continue to be compromised.
Thiem also deployed the perfect game-plan – drawing Zverev to the net and put wide to put maximise stress on the injury as well as capitalising on the fact that Zverev is not necessarily as deft at the net.
For Thiem who had been taken to four sets in his last three matches, it will have been a welcome relief to close out a three setter with his third straight semi-finals in Roland Garros now beckoning. Maybe concerns about his coming into the French Open over-cooked with the Lyon title in the bag the week before were now unfounded.
Zverev said, about pulling out: “I definitely thought about it, but, you know, I didn’t want to pull out for the first time of my career in a Grand Slam quarterfinal. So, you know, I knew I’m not going to win the match. There was no way for me. I mean, I could barely move. I couldn’t serve. I couldn’t really do anything.
“But I still wanted to finish the match and, you know, kind of give the credit to Dominic. He deserves to be in the semi-finals. You know, end on a loss and not on a retirement.”
All in all it has been a clay court swing that has gone a long way to defining Zverev. Assuming that all is well with any scans to assess the damage, he should still be considered a decent prospect on grass to make the second week at Wimbledon.
“I won three five-set matches in a row, got to my first quarterfinal. All positive. Clay court season in general has been very positive. I lost three matches on the clay, all to great players. And I won two tournaments, made two Masters finals. So, it’s all very positive.
I think, you know, if I get healthy again, I’ll be ready to play good in the grass court season, as well.”
Apart from whether or not Zverev could actually make it to a Slam quarter-final for the first time in his career, the real question now is who, in this section of the draw, can emerge to at least mount a credible challenge to Rafael Nadal when Sunday rolls around.
Thiem knows he has the game to beat Nadal – two of his three wins against the Spaniard have come at the Masters 1000 events, but their two meetings at Roland Garros have been far tamer three-set wins for the 10-time champion.
Thiem said: “I’m a better player in general, for sure. There was another year of work where I improved and developed my game. Then, I think this year I’m physically and mentally fresher than I have been the last two years. I know how to handle a Grand Slam now, how to handle — to get that deep in such a tournament, and I think everything gets better with experience.”
He is one match away from what many expect will be the final – he showed in Madrid he had the mentality to come out and play his best with his best, He is two matches away from proving it.
The Roland Garros men’s semi-finals will take place on Friday.
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