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Sports

Five things we learned on Day 11 of Roland Garros - Thiem creams Djokovic while Nadal glides on.

media Dominic Thiem reached the French Open semi-finals for the second year running with his quarter-final defeat over defending champion Novak Djokovic. RFI/Pierre-René Worms

Novak Djokovic looked all of his 30 years as he bowed out of the French Open but his fellow wrinklies - Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka lurched on. Kei Nishikori just looked cool.

1. So farewell then Nole. You wore the mantle well.

Novak Djokovic was divested of his Roland Garros crown on day 11 by Dominic Thiem. The 23-year-old Austrian dispatched the champ 7-6 6-3 6-0. It was thorough. It was efficient. It was merciless. Djokovic has lost it mentally too. The 30-year-old Serb admitted he has not been able to call upon the oomph which led him to four consecutive Grand Slam titles culminating at the French Open last June. With that triumph he became the eighth man to have won at all four Grand Slam venues of Melbourne, Paris, London and New York. The pantheon includes Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Fred Perry and Rod Laver. Federer has a record 18 titles. But Nadal is the favourite to win the 2017 Roland Garros championship and collect his 15th Grand Slam.

2 Thiem by name. Thiem by nature.

There’s an element of nominative determinism about Dominic Thiem – phonetically speaking at least. He pulverized defending champion Novak Djokovic with a Thiem, sorry, we mean stream of winners during their quarter-final match on day 11. Djokovic humbled him in the Roland Garros semi-finals last year on his way to the title. Thiem avenged that defeat this year. His prize from dispatching Djokovic? A semi-final showdown with Rafael Nadal. “It’s a joke how tough it is to win a slam,” said Thiem. “I’ve beaten Novak. And then I face Nadal in the semis and even if I get through that I will face another top star in the final. That’s why it’s a slam. It’s such a tough achievement.” Time to gleam Dom, time to gleam.


3. Kei Nishikori wins the style stakes

The eighth seed Kei Nishikori walked onto centre court looking the epitome of elegance. He was wearing a green blazer and green shorts. He removed his jacket to reveal his logo drenched shirt. It was also green. Nishikori then gave the top seed Andy Murray the run around to take the first set 6-2. Murray, who had looked like a day tripping ingenu then hit back to win the second 6-1. The third set was a bit more contested as Nishikori went uberaggressive when Murray was serving for the set a 6-5 up. The 27-year-old Japanese star levelled for 6-6. But played a stinker of a tiebreaker losing it seven points to love. The fourth set was one way traffic as Murray won that 6-1. By the end of the three hour contest. Nishikori too was looking as green as his blazer.

4. Roland Garros: a country for old men

Three of the men’s semi-finalists are over 30. Dominic Thiem is the upstart at a callow 23. Rafael Nadal was 31 on day seven of the tournament. Andy Murray turned 30 on 15 May and Stan Wawrinka who will play Murray for a place in the final is 32 and the oldest semi-finalist since a 32-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the last four in 1985. “Today, players play longer,” remarked Old Man Stan. “It's harder, I think, when you're very young to make it to the top. Today it takes a little more maturity. It takes
a lot of hard work both physically and mentally.” Thiem, along with 21-year-old Nick Kyrgios, 20-year-old Alexander Zverev and 21-year-old Karen Khachanov have been promoted as the next huge noises on the men’s tour. None have yet won a Grand Slam. “I'm one of the old ones, so to speak,” added Wawrinka. “But mentally I feel very young. I have only been in the top five for a few years, so it's all still very fresh for me. I think that this is why I'm so intact and still very, very motivated.” Like jokes, perhaps, the old ones are the best ones.

5. Education, education, education

It seems apt to dredge up one of the mantras from the former British prime minister Tony Blair on the eve of the general election in that country. But there was learning in the air on day 11. Pablo Carreno had to pull out of his quarter-final with Rafael Nadal due to an abdominal strain. He had been contesting his first Grand Slam quarter-final. And though it did not go the way he would have liked, he told the review he was pleased with his performances in Paris where he beat the 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov and the fifth seed Milos Raonic. Got more insight about my game and confidence for the future was the gist of his analysis. And the same line emerged from 28th seeded  frenchwoman Caroline Garcia who played her first Grand Slam quarter-final. She ultimately lost in straight sets to the second seed Karolina Pliskova. "Every single match is extremely complicated,” said the 23-year-old Garcia. “During Grand Slam tournaments you have to be very, very focused. It's not just one week, it's two weeks. Grand Slams are so difficult. So doing so well I think will boost my confidence for this year and probably going forward.” We wait and see.

 

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