I hope you liked my quick post yesterday. It was only half serious though and today I want to go into a bit more detail. I thought the semi-final between Djokovic and Thiem was a tremendous match while the other semi-final disappointed.
Djokovic defeated Thiem 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in another absolute masterclass. It is clear that Djokovic starts raising his level from the quarterfinals onward in slams. The straight set beatdown of Berdych was impressive but the win over Thiem was truly special.
It was a display of total clay court mastery with some terrific drop shots and volleys included. Djokovic was just on his game and it reminded me of the US Open semis last year and the Australian Open semis this year.
Djokovic was completely dialed in and in the zone. When he is in that mode he is simply unplayable. It is the highest level of tennis ever played and even Thiem’s best was not nearly good enough.
Thiem did exactly what I thought he should which was to come out and swing freely because he had nothing to lose. He was cracking winners himself from all positions but Djokovic’s level was just astonishing.
It’s the best sight in tennis. It may not be as spectacular as Federer or Nadal at their best but it is of higher quality and for the true tennis connoisseur it is a special treat indeed. It is a level of tennis for which there is no solution.
Not yet anyway. The efficiency and completeness of his tennis are such that no one comes close when it is at peak level. The match with Thiem reminded me of the Australian Open semi-final with Federer especially since the first two sets were also 6-1, 6-2.
Even the great Federer gets shut out completely when Djokovic is in this form. Like Federer, Thiem was able to mount some kind of comeback in the third set as he went 3-0 up, but he is not as experienced and accomplished as Federer and couldn’t convert his advantage into winning the set.
That said, I am still very proud of and happy with Thiem’s performance not only in this match but in the French Open overall. The quality of tennis in the semi-final was a treat to watch and even though Thiem got destroyed it was very entertaining tennis.
Thiem has serious power off the ground but he also has a complete game. And, of course, that backhand is just a work of art. As for Djokovic, he served at 68% first serves which already puts the opponent under immense pressure.
Then he won just about 50% of return points at 41/83 with some high-quality returning which makes it impossible for the opponent. Add the depth and consistency of Djokovic’s groundstrokes and it puts the opponent under constant and relentless pressure.
That is not even mentioning Djokovic incredible movement and defense and all the rest. I mean it really is unplayable. The one weakness he has is that overhead which is the worst of any world #1 to date but it the rest of his game is so good that it doesn’t matter.
His slice is also probably the worst of any world #1, but again, if the rest of your game is so efficient it doesn’t matter.
- Murray vs Wawrinka
Since both semi-finals were played at the same time I only watched some of this match once the other semi-final was over. Murray won 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in a pretty disappointing match. I started watching in the third set where Stan got the break to win the set.
But then in the fourth set, he just went away again. It was a disappointing performance from him but overall a good result for him given his poor clay court form until Geneva. And congrats to Murray.
I didn’t think he would get this far after the five-setters in his first two rounds but then Nishikori did go and lose to Gasquet before the quarters and Gasquet choked badly as usual.
But congrats to him on making his first French Open final and he certainly came a long way as a clay courter in the last couple of years.
- Final Preview
Ironically, Djokovic is the one who had the tougher schedule but Murray may end up being more tired because he dropped six sets before the final while Djokovic only dropped one. So certainly Djokovic seems physically in better shape going into this final.
He also finally got his rest day on Saturday after playing four days straight. Other than that this is his fourth French Open final as opposed to Murray’s first which must also count for something. Experience does help.
Then he leads the head-to-head with Murray 23-10 overall, 7-2 in slams, 4-1 on clay, and won the only meeting at the French Open last year in five sets. The poll at Men’s Tennis Forums suggests that Djokovic is the favorite by just about 2/1 odds which I think is fair.
That is strong odds which I think he deserves. Other than the fact that he has never won the French Open everything else is overwhelmingly is his favor. And besides Murray has never won the French Open either.
I think some people are putting stock in the fact that Murray defeated Djokovic in the Rome final and gave him a very tough match in the semis last year. I think those people are mistaken and I’ll tell you why.
Murray gets the odd win over Djokovic, just like Federer. He defeated him last year in the Montreal final while Federer defeated him in the Cincinnati final.
And we all know what happened at the US Open. Same thing at the World Tour Finals where Federer defeated a poor Djokovic but then got routined in the final. Djokovic was struggling in Montreal and Cincy as well.
And he did so in Rome too. He was out of sorts all week. That has not been the case at all in Paris. Dropping only one set is very good for him in a slam, given that he usually plays his best tennis from the quarters onward.
I can only speak for myself but for me, the Rome result means nothing at all. And neither does that French Open semi-final of last year have much relevance. Djokovic’s main mission last year was to put the Nadal demon to bed which he did convincingly.
So much so that Nadal didn’t even show up to challenge him this year. And by the way, I wish he did because Djokovic in his semi-final form would have embarrassed anyone, including Nadal. Thiem did extremely well to only receive one bakery product.
I think Djokovic is a better player than he was last year which is why I don’t think that semi-final marathon with Murray has much relevance here. He would have learned not to become passive from that match as well.
After dropping the first two sets in that match, Murray started hitting the ball really hard and became more aggressive while Djokovic just played the same. I don’t think Djokovic would allow the same thing to happen this time.
He is now a better, more confident player and I think he will rise to the occasion and relish it. Never mind the ‘French Open curse’. You can say he was cursed again this year but he took matters into his own hands and won both his quarters and semis in straight sets to conserve energy.
When you really decide to do something no one can stop you and the circumstances become irrelevant. I think Djokovic has said enough is enough and decided that this is the year he will put the ‘French Open curse’ to bed.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to win the title, or else there would be no need to play the final. But I think he is the clear favorite and that he will rise to the occasion once more. It is by no means an easy task.
Djokovic is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four consecutive grand slams. It has not been done in the modern era. Not even by Federer or Nadal. So that would already put Djokovic above Federer and Nadal in some respects.
Djokovic is more complete as a player than Federer and Nadal and I believe he is taking tennis to a new level. So I won’t be surprised if he gets it done. But again, this is tennis and you just never know.
As for a prediction, this French Open has a similar feel to it than the Australian Open where Djokovic really started to shine from the quarterfinals onward. And of course, there he defeated Murray in straight sets in the final.
Djokovic looked in absolute brutal form in the semis so I won’t be surprised if it is straight sets again but the reason I don’t like making predictions is exactly because tennis is so unpredictable.
But Murray is certainly capable of winning a set so for safety I will say Djokovic in four.