Dominic Thiem Upsets Novak Djokovic to Advance to 2019 French Open Final

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2019

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 08: Dominic Thiem of Austria plays a forehand during his mens singles semi-final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during Day fourteen of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros on June 08, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Dominic Thiem returned to the final of the French Open for the second year running by finishing the job against Novak Djokovic when play resumed in their semi-final tie on Saturday.

Thiem, who was a break up in the third set when weather forced play to be suspended on Friday, beat the world No. 1 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 after more rain led to another stoppage.

He will face defending champion Rafael Nadal on Sunday in a rematch of the 2018 final.

Thiem served to make it 4-1 in the third set, winning some impressive points along the way. The best was a forehand down the line 26 shots into the point.

Djokovic looked in trouble, but he held firm on serve for 4-2 and then broke to reduce the gap further. Thiem's speed across court was causing problems, though, and a sliced backhand at the net, followed by a high backhand winner, increased the pressure on Djokovic.

Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK

How's that for a point?! Brilliant tennis from Djokovic and Thiem πŸ‘ #RG19 https://t.co/1wOljQ1H0d

Djokovic held to draw level in the set, but Thiem's sliced backhand continued to keep Djokovic on his heels. Fortune was also on the Austrian's side when he skimmed a shot off the top of the net to force deuce in his next service game.

It proved a key moment, as Thiem held to reassert himself in the set.

Eurosport UK @Eurosport_UK

A huge slice of luck for Thiem πŸ˜… But that defence from Djokovic πŸ’ͺ #RG19 https://t.co/rPo53ujX1C

Djokovic needed a change of tack and promptly deployed a series of kick serves. The tactic forced Thiem on to his back foot:

David Law @DavidLawTennis

Djokovic is forcing Thiem to red-line his game. Thiem will have to play, and sustain his play, like Wawrinka 2015 to win from here.

Thiem was also kept off guard when Djokovic started to mix in some shorter serves. Even so, the 25-year-old held his nerve to close out the set in style.

Djokovic had been unhappy with how quickly the umpire was announcing the score between points and wasn't shy about making his feelings clear amid concerns about the shot clock:

Stuart Fraser @stu_fraser

"Have you ever played tennis? So you know how it is in this situation at 5-6, long point, crowd still clapping?" Djokovic asks the umpire.

A sense of injustice and being pushed to the brink brought out the best in Djokovic, who raced into a 4-2 lead in the fourth set.

Roland-Garros @rolandgarros

The luck of the net cord... #RG19 https://t.co/snfO1rAofO

However, Thiem fought back brilliantly to force his way into a 5-4 lead and within one game of a memorable win. It left Djokovic having to hold to stay in the tournament.

He did so thanks to a pair of unforced errors by Thiem, and mistakes continued when Thiem went back on serve. A double-fault gave Djokovic a priceless break and the chance to take the match to a fifth set, and the Serb seized it.

Momentum was with Djokovic, but he almost failed to hold after letting a 40-15 lead slip early in the fifth. He protected serve, however, to even the decider at one game apiece.

A misjudged forehand, far from Djokovic's first on the day, helped Thiem save a break point and move ahead again. Thiem then converted a break point in the next game before holding for a 4-1 lead.

ATP Tour @ATP_Tour

πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ή @ThiemDomi is finding all the angles. ⬅️ @Eurosport_UK | #RG19 https://t.co/LT0GPqBvRh

Sadly, the covers were soon brought out as rain reappeared with Djokovic working to save another break point.

Once play resumed, Djokovic reeled off two straight wins, including earning a break when Thiem went long on a lob. However, Thiem sensationally broke back and then served for the match.

Things didn't go the fourth seed's way, though, as he blew a 40-15 lead and allowed Djokovic to break back. And then the 32-year-old held to even the set at 5-5.

Thiem's response was an emphatic hold without a single dropped point. He then sealed victory with a magnificent forehand to end the remarkable match.