Stan Wawrinka

Dominic Thiem
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Dominic Thiem upsets Rafael Nadal to reach Australian Open semifinal

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Outplayed at his own brand of physical tennis for much of the match, Rafael Nadal finally claimed a set to try to start a comeback against Dominic Thiem.

Nadal marked the moment by hopping in a crouch at the baseline and vigorously pumping his right arm four times.

Soon, though, he was back in trouble. And eventually, his bid to tie Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles by winning the Australian Open was over with a quarterfinal loss Wednesday to Thiem — a younger version of Nadal himself.

Thiem’s 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (6) victory over the top-seeded Nadal lasted 4 hours, 10 minutes because of so many lengthy, electrifying points and put him in his fifth major semifinal.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

It is his Thiem’s first trip to the final four at a Slam somewhere other than at the French Open, the place that is Nadal’s domain.

Of more significance: The outcome ended Nadal’s career-best streak of making at least the semifinals at seven consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, a span during which he earned three trophies to narrow his gap with Federer.

“He is one of the greatest of all-time, one of this sport’s biggest legends,” the fifth-seeded Thiem said about Nadal.

The last time Nadal didn’t get to the final four at a major? Also at the Australian Open, where he also went out in the quarterfinals two years ago before finishing as the runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2019.

That was Nadal’s fourth defeat in a final at Melbourne Park since he won his lone title at the place in 2009. He’s won two at Wimbledon, four at the U.S. Open and 12 at the French Open.

Thiem had been 0-5 against Nadal at the majors, including losses in the final at Roland Garros each of the past two years.

But this one was different. The defining statistic: Thiem won exactly twice as many points that featured nine or more shots, 24-12.

Thiem managed to hang in there with Nadal on physical baseline exchanges, trading groundstroke for groundstroke and picking the proper spots to move forward.

Or to describe it another way: Thiem was out-Nadal-ing Nadal, the ultimate grinder who never met a point that was too long or too grueling.

Now Thiem will play No. 7 Alexander Zverev on Friday for a berth in the title match. And the winner from that match will play the winner of the Federer-Novak Djokovic semifinal.

Zverev reached his first major semifinal anywhere by overcoming a terrible start Wednesday and putting together a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka.

So instead of Nadal, 33, against Wawrinka, 34, it’ll be Zverev, 22, against Thiem, 26, a couple of members of the new generation trying to collect a breakthrough Slam title.

“I think it’s the first time I am playing a Grand Slam semifinal and I am the older player,” Thiem said with a chuckle.

The first two sets Wednesday sets were remarkably similar: Nadal would go up by a break, then Thiem would break back and take it in a tiebreaker. The first lasted 67 minutes, the second 69.

Nadal was flustered by a warning from chair umpire Aurelie Tourte for a time violation, citing him for taking more than the allotted 25 seconds before serving. Nadal termed the call “amazing,” complaining that the previous point was comprised of an exhausting 19 shots and so the clock shouldn’t have started when it did (something which is at the chair umpire’s discretion).

“You don’t like the good tennis,” he told Tourte. “You don’t like the good tennis.”

Later, he gave Tourte a sarcastic thumb’s up after she told him he hesitated too long before trying to challenge a line call.

Thiem’s biggest hiccups came as the end was near.

There was the break that ceded the third set, the one celebrated so enthusiastically by Nadal.

There was another break when Thiem served for the victory at 5-4 in the fourth but was undone by a series of jitters-induced mistakes. There were three off-the-mark forehands, with a double-fault mixed in for good measure.

“Such a really mentally tough situation,” Thiem said. “Couldn’t handle it.”

Then, on his first match point, at 6-4 in the last tiebreaker, Thiem drove a leaping forehand into the net, then covered his face with his left hand.

His second match point came and went with a lob that landed long.

But Thiem did not fold there, getting a third opportunity to close it with a cross-court backhand that glanced off the tape — one of a handful of favorable net cords for him.

When Nadal missed one last forehand, Thiem looked to the sky and spread his arms wide.

“He played with the right determination,” Nadal said. “Well done for him.”

MEN’S DRAW: Federer fends off seven match points to face Djokovic

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Novak Djokovic, injured, ousted by Stan Wawrinka at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — The term Big Four faded from tennis over the last three years. Novak DjokovicRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal combined to win each of the last 11 Grand Slam singles titles. Andy Murray dropped out of the band with hip surgeries.

It is now Big Three. But Stan Wawrinka, the last man outside that group to win a Slam, looks closer to being ready to rejoin the fold.

Wawrinka, a major champion in 2014, 2015 and 2016, upset top-ranked and defending champion Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 2-1 in the U.S. Open fourth round on Sunday, with Djokovic retiring with his recent left shoulder injury. He received some boos leaving the court and refused to say how much and when it began affecting him during the match.

“I don’t want to talk about my injuries,” said Djokovic, who received treatment on the shoulder before the third set. “I did a lot of different treatments and diagnostics and everything the last couple of weeks. Obviously, I have to do it again and see how the shoulder reacts.”

Still, Wawrinka deemed his level of play “superb.”

“I was quite confident with the level I was going to bring tonight,” he said, “but against the No. 1 player you never know if you’re going to win or not.”

Wawrinka was ranked No. 3 when he played for the final time before two left knee surgeries — against Daniil Medvedev in the 2017 Wimbledon first round. (Medvedev, the hottest player on tour leading up to the Open, is Wawrinka’s quarterfinal opponent Tuesday.)

He missed the rest of 2017, plus two more months early in 2018. His ranking dropped to No. 263, due significantly to inactivity but also a year in which he went 4-4 at the Slams.

But Wawrinka showed grit at age 34, getting back into the 20 at the French Open three months ago. He outlasted 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in a 5-hour, 9-minute epic at Roland Garros, the longest match of his career. Two days later, he took a set off Federer and forced two others to tiebreaks. The knee held up.

“Maybe confirmed to you guys that I can still beat some top guys,” Wawrinka told media in Paris. “I know where is my level. I know what I have done to come back in that level physically.”

Djokovic’s shoulder has been volatile in New York. He said he was pain-free in Friday’s third-round win, but before that had some days of higher intensity pain.

“The pain was constant for weeks now, some days higher, some days with less intensity,” he said Sunday night.

His defeat has ramifications for the other Big Three members.

Djokovic, with 16 Slam titles, is closer to the totals of Nadal (18) and Federer (20) than ever. Now he will likely drop farther behind one of them. And faces uncertainty with that shoulder after winning four of the last five majors coming back from elbow surgery.

Federer’s path to a potential final with Nadal (they’ve never played at the U.S. Open) now no longer includes Djokovic. The three men left in his half are a combined 3-33 against him (the only three wins were by Wawrinka on clay).

Earlier Sunday, Federer needed just 79 minutes to take care of No. 15 David Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. That came two days after Federer advanced in 80 minutes out of the third round. And after he dropped the opening set of his first two matches at a Slam for the first time.

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Federer gets Grigor Dimitrov, who as he climbed to his peak (world No. 3 in 2017) gained the nickname “Baby Fed” for having a Federer-like game.

But Dimitrov is into his first Slam quarterfinal since the 2018 Australian Open and into the second week here after losing in the first round of three of his previous five Slams.

Federer is 7-0 against Dimitrov.

“I’m aware of the fact it’s a big match for him,” Federer said. “Yeah, I’ve done well against him in the past. But new match, new Grigor, new me.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal set French Open semifinal clash

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal
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After two years off clay, and three away from the French Open, Roger Federer reached his goal without yet lifting a trophy. A semifinal match with Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.

“If I came back to play on clay,” Federer said after beating Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals, “I came back to play Rafa.”

Federer and Nadal will play for the 39th time on Friday (NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and NBC Sports app French Open semifinals coverage begins at 11 a.m. across all time zones).

Federer owns a personal-best five-match win streak in the rivalry (last meeting in 2017), but he’s 2-13 against Nadal on clay and 0-5 at the French Open. Nadal, an 11-time French Open champ, has the 23-15 edge overall.

“What I will do is try to do my best, so that the victories I have won on this surface against him count for something,” Nadal said after routing Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in a quarterfinal that started and finished during Federer’s 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over Wawrinka. “And he will do his utmost to make sure that his latest victories against me have their weight. And so we’ll see.”

FRENCH OPEN: TV Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Federer, a 37-year-old with a male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, missed the 2016 French Open with a back injury, then skipped the entire clay-court seasons in 2017 and 2018. Main reasons: rest, recovery and to extend his career. It did. After going four straight years without a major title, Federer won three between 2017 and 2018.

He returned to clay this spring and had moderate results, reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid and Rome. After arriving in Paris, he said he felt similar to when he came back from a knee injury to play the Australian Open in 2017. Which he won.

“I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough or is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch?” Federer said on the eve of the French Open, which he won for the one and only time 10 years ago. “I’m not sure if it’s in my racket.”

Well, Federer didn’t drop a set in his first four matches in Paris. Wawrinka, who knocked out Federer en route to the 2015 French Open title, was Federer’s first formidable opponent. Perhaps Federer could have finished him off before a 75-minute rain delay if he had converted more than two of 18 break points.

“I exceeded my expectations here,” said Federer, into his first French semifinal since 2012. “I’m very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa.”

Nadal, 91-2 all-time at the French, also dropped one set in his first five matches. He entered the tournament as a slight favorite over top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the likely Sunday final opponent for Federer or Nadal.

“Of course after having Roger in front in the semifinals is an extra thing,” Nadal said. “We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other. So is another episode of this, and happy for that and excited, no? Will be special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.”

In Tuesday’s women’s quarterfinals, No. 7 Sloane Stephens was upset by No. 26 Jo Konta of Great Britain, 6-1, 6-4.

Konta, a former world No. 4, had been winless in four previous French Open appearances. Now she’s into her third Grand Slam semifinal and first since 2017 Wimbledon. She is the first British woman to reach the semifinals in Paris since Jo Durie in 1983.

Czech Marketa Vondrousova, a 19-year-old ranked No. 38, awaits in Thursday’s semis.

Men’s Quarterfinals
(1) Novak Djokovic – (5) Alexander Zverev (Wednesday)
(4) Dominic Thiem – (10) Karen Khachanov (Wednesday)
(3) Roger Federer def. (24) Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4
(2) Rafael Nadal def. (7) Kei Nishikori, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3

Women’s Quarterfinals
(8) Ashleigh Barty – (14) Madison Keys (Wednesday)
(3) Simona Halep – Amanda Anisimova (Wednesday)
(26) Jo Konta def. (7) Sloane Stephens, 6-1, 6-4
Marketa Vondrousova def. (31) Petra Martic, 7-6 (1), 7-5

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