PARIS: Having stunned defending champion Novak Djokovic to make the French Open semi-finals, Dominic Thiem described his next challenge of facing Rafael Nadal as “the toughest match you can imagine.”
The 23-year-old Austrian sent Djokovic tumbling to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-0 quarter-final loss on Wednesday for his first win over the world number two in six meetings.
Now, he has to get past nine-time champion Nadal if he is to take his place in a first Grand Slam final.
“It’s going to be the toughest match you can imagine,” admitted Thiem, who trails Nadal 4-2 on head to head.
However, he is the only player to have defeated the Spaniard on clay this year with a Rome quarter-final success offsetting losses to Nadal in the final in Barcelona and Madrid.
“But it’s great for me to be in the semi-finals again, to defend that,” added sixth seed Thiem who lost to Djokovic in the Paris semi-finals a year ago.
“I think on Friday is coming the toughest opponent ever here in Roland Garros. Gonna be the fourth match against him in, like, five or six weeks.
“Not really any big secrets. He’s in his best shape again.”
On Wednesday, Thiem avenged his loss to Djokovic last year as well as his defeat in Rome in May where he was allowed just one game in a semi-final rout.
Thiem saved two set points in the 10th game of the opener and was always in control from that point onwards.
He allowed Djokovic just eight points in the third set – only the ninth 6-0 ‘bagel’ the 12-time major winner has ever conceded.
“The first set, I could easily lose, and I think it was the key for the first victory against him to win this close first set, and then have a good start to the second set, as well,” said the Austrian.