World No. 1 Novak Djokovic punched his ticket to the 2016 French Open final in dominant fashion Friday, as he defeated No. 13 Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in one of two men's semifinal clashes at Roland Garros.
With the victory, Djoker advanced to his third consecutive French Open final, sixth straight Grand Slam final and the 20th Grand Slam final of his illustrious career.
Djokovic is now just one victory away from winning the career Grand Slam, and according to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times, he is on a ridiculous run when it comes to going the distance in big tournaments:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Novak Djokovic reaches 18th Slam final in last 23 Slams, thrashing Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. One match from holding all four Slams. #RG162016-6-3 14:58:31
Twenty-two-year-old Thiem is among the fastest-rising stars in tennis and may have Grand Slam titles in his future, but he was no match for the 11-time Grand Slam champion Friday.
Djoker jumped all over the young Austrian from the opening serve and never allowed him to find a rhythm.
He twice broke the big-serving Thiem in the first set, and the underdog didn't do himself any favors by firing 20 unforced errors.
As pointed out by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, though, taking chances was Thiem's only hope of pulling off the upset:
Nole quickly cruised to a 6-2 win in the first set, dropping just five points on serve. According to SI.com's Carole Bouchard, he appeared to turn up the intensity in comparison to his previous matches during the tournament:
Carole Bouchard @carole_bouchard
Novak fist pumping more in this set than through all his other matches. 6-2 vs Thiem. Important hold at 4-2.2016-6-3 13:51:44
Djokovic was nearly flawless in the opening set, and Clarey was among those who had no answers for how Thiem or anyone else could compete with him:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
If Djokovic keeps playing like this, anyone with the antidote is a lot smarter than yours truly2016-6-3 13:51:44
Thiem actually held a 12-6 advantage over Djoker in winners during the first set and made some big shots at times, but it was nowhere near enough to push the Serbian superstar.
Gerry Marzorati of NewYorker.com expressed his belief that any other player would likely have suffered the same fate:
Gerry Marzorati @marzoTennis
Thiem giving it all he has. But the way Djokovic is playing today, so far, could anyone stay with him? Takes Set 1 6-2, before friendly fans2016-6-3 14:02:19
For as good as Djokovic was in the first set, he turned up his level of play even more in the second en route to taking it 6-1.
He lost only four points on serve and made just two unforced errors in the entire set, as Thiem continued to struggle with figuring out how to prevent the veritable brick wall from getting the ball back.
Thiem did well to limit his unforced errors to just six in the second set, but his decent play was rendered moot by Nole, according to Live Tennis:
While Thiem could have easily went out with a whimper, he made things interesting early in the third set by going up 3-0 by virtue of breaking Djokovic for the first time in the match.
Djoker began to battle back shortly thereafter, however, as he held serve and then broke back in a game that involved a 30-shot rally, as seen in this video courtesy of Roland Garros on Twitter:
Un échange. 30 coups. Thiem vs Djokovic 👀 #RG16 https://t.co/Lug1fvCqlk2016-6-3 14:43:27
Nole reeled off five consecutive games after falling behind 0-3, and while Thiem managed to prolong the match by holding his serve, Djokovic closed it out on the ensuing service game.
The French Open is the one Grand Slam title that has always eluded Djokovic, but the form he displayed Friday suggests that now represents his best chance to fill the missing spot in his trophy case.
Djoker will face No. 2 Andy Murray in the final, and while the match won't be easy by any means, Nole looked like a world-beater in the semis.
He also holds a career mark of 23-10 against the Scot, including a 3-1 record on clay, although Murray did beat him on the red stuff this year in Rome.
Nole has won 12 of their past 14 meetings, though, and has finally rounded into top form.
Although the 29-year-old Serb has let the French Open slip through his fingers on multiple occasions, his dominance and determination against Thiem suggest that trend will end in 2016.
Djokovic had some shaky moments in his fourth-round victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, but he raised his game in the quarterfinals and then performed even better in the semis, and he was well aware of that improvement, according to Dan Imhoff of RolandGarros.com: "Best performance of the tournament. As I was hoping after the long fourth round that I'm going to start playing better as the tournament progresses, and that's what's happening now."
After losing in the French Open final to Wawrinka last year, Djoker admitted that returning has been on his mind ever since, per ATPWorldTour.com: "Now I put myself in a position I wanted to be in ever since last year's final [Roland Garros is] always high on the priority list when I start a season...and to be able to reach the finals is really special. I give myself another opportunity to win the trophy."
As for Thiem, he was no match for Nole, but he believes the experience could help him moving forward, according to ATPWorldTour.com: "He was just too strong today. That's all I can say. But still, it inspires me to work harder."
Thiem's first Grand Slam semifinal was undoubtedly an education in what he needs in order to one day become a champion, and based on Djokovic's showing, he may prove to be a French Open champion for the first time in his career.
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