French Open QF preview and prediction: Djokovic vs. Thiem

Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem will be squaring off for the sixth time in their careers and for the second time this spring when they meet again in the quarterfinals of the French Open on Tuesday.

Djokovic is sweeping the head-to-head series 5-0–including 11-1 in total sets–after destroying Thiem 6-1, 6-0 in the recent Rome semifinals. Dating back to their round-robin clash at the 2016 World Tour Finals, Djokovic has won their last four sets 6-0, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. This stretch follows Thiem’s lone successful set, which he took 7-6(10) last fall at the O2 Arena in London before getting clobbered in the next two. This is also a rematch of last year’s Roland Garros semifinals, in which Djokovic dominated 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 on his way to lifting the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the first time in his career.

The Serb’s 2016 success in Paris came as no surprise, because he dominated the entire first half of the season before a third-round Wimbledon loss to Sam Querrey touched off a prolonged slump that still may not be over. The 2017 campaign, on the other hand, has been a struggle. Djokovic is a relatively modest 24-6 with no titles since January 7 (Doha), and he followed up his Rome win over Thiem by losing to Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-3 in the final. So far this fortnight he has defeated Marcel Granollers, Joao Sousa, Diego Schwartzman, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas, needing five sets to get past Schwartzman in addition to a trio of straight-set victories.

Thiem is an awesome 21-4 on the slow stuff this year, which is the biggest–and basically only–reason why he is No. 3 in the race to London. The seventh-ranked Austrian won Rio de Janeiro and reached finals in Barcelona and Madrid. He has been the most dominant player other than Nadal through four rounds, having blown out Bernard Tomic, Simone Bolelli, Steve Johnson, and Horacio Zeballos.

Speaking of Nadal, his lone clay-court loss came against Thiem in the Rome in quarterfinals. The Spaniard was physically spent by that point and the story was the same for Thiem when he took the court against Djokovic one day later, managing all of one game.

“It was a combination of everything,” the 23-year-old said of his recent loss to the world No. 2. “I played finals in Madrid before and then already in the first two matches of Rome I felt that somehow I’m getting more and more empty. Then against Rafa, I played with the last percents. It was amazing match, and the next day I was just done.”

“I don’t think it’s gonna play too big of a role,” Djokovic said of his perfect record against Thiem. “I think he really will step it up and try to do something special. I’m sure he’s going to be as motivated as ever, so I expect him to come out and really play his best. I’m going to be ready for that. I obviously played him last year semis here, played a really good match, (and) played an incredible match against him in Rome. But it’s different conditions. It’s best of five. It’s a Grand Slam.”

None of those last two factors help Thiem. The underdog’s talent level and current form are such that he is more than capable of winning this match, but his past struggles against Djokovic and relative inexperience–at least compared to his opponent–in the business end of slams could be his undoing.

Pick: Djokovic in 5

80 Comments on French Open QF preview and prediction: Djokovic vs. Thiem

  1. This is what I love about sport. Who picked Thiem to win in straights? Serving up a bagel in the last one? Not me. Anything can happen and that’s what’s great about it.

    • I don’t know who why people ever thought Novak would be back. Because of a few good performances here and there against tier 2 players? He almost lost to Schwartzman and won because his opponent starting getting back problems. He won’t be winning any grand slams unless he decides to be motivated again, eat meat like a man and drop Pepe. Before Jan of this year I put $300 on both Murray and Djokovic not winning a slam this year at 3:1 and 4:1 odds respectively. Easiest money I will ever make.

      • I for one never thought Novak was back! I kept saying that..,however, I did not expect him to underperform like this! I also thought Nole had mental edge over Thiem and would beat him today…errors from Nole’s racquet were all over the place! Made it so easy for Thiem…

        • From a performance aspect, I was 100% sure of a Thiem victory. Thing is Thiem doesn’t have the nerves needed so that’s why I was unsure of the results. I’m glad to see the stronger player prevailed. At least Thiem will show some resistance against Nadal, he might even pull it off although that’s a long shot. Djokovic would have been embarrassed there as well.

      • NNY said:

        “If my ego and self-worth depended on being right about a tennis match, then I would consider myself in big trouble.”

        Too funny!


  2. Yay! Thiem’s first win over Novak in the QF at FO, on Thiem’s best surface, very very proud of Dominic Thiem.


    But I have hope that by Wimbledon and US Open Series he’ll be back – he’s not got his confidence back.

    To those that think Dominic is one-dimensional…NO. He’s made big improvements since last clay season. He’ll keep getting better. Classy guy.

    • thiem showed some great touch today rc. am worried about his semi with rafa and rafa being undercooked.
      nole really needs a full time coach!!!

      • Yeah amy I woke up in time to see the last two sets. Nole needs a full time coach, I agree. It was nice to have Andre but I don’t know how much Andre will be around — maybe he’ll have some time during Wimbledon and certainly during US Open, my guess.

        I’m a little worried about Thiem. Have to give him respect. (Maybe) I give him a set but Rafa is going to give him a fight much tougher than what Nole was capable of today!!

        • i don’t think he would beat rafa if not for the lack of match play rafa has had recently. but how will that affect him? in 2011 rg nole really lost focus when he had very little match play before his semi with fed. that makes me plenty nervous and then thiem got the win against rafa in rome.
          pepe is a terribel influence on nole! he needs to get rid of him and find someone permanent if andre isn’t going to be around much…

            • Crack in the ol’ crystal ball, Hawkstradamus? Or did you just peer too far into the future?

              FWIW I think Nole will be back. As the Big 4 said when Rafa was struggling, champions don’t go away. They don’t come back overnight either.




              Are the Tennis Channel commies confused? Yes, definitely. Torn between lamenting Djokovic’s fall and praising Thiem’s rise. Actually it is possible for one player to play great and the other to play badly but kinda hard for us on the outside to really tell.

          • It all depends on how first 2 sets go. if Thiem is able to some how manage to get first 2 sets, it will be in his favor. but if they split 1 each rafa will have chance to go for extended match and can ware Thiem down.

        • @ratclif,
          Fully agree. Thiem is confident but so is Rafa! Thiem is playing well but SO IS RAFA! Rafa’s top level is better than Them’s! And Rafa has 9 titles here!

          Vamos Champ!

    • Well RC, Thiem still not so good at the net. If you force him to come forward, chances are he’ll make errors; it’s only coming in on his own accord that he wins the point.

      He’s still a hard hitter, but is slowly adding in some other shots into his game.

  3. BO5 on Chatrier is a different proposition than Rome.

    Plus Rafa will have learned from that loss.


  4. In other news, Rafa is no 2 and Nole is no 3. So they will still continue to be drawn in the same half 🙂

    • Yes, Rafa is guaranteed to pass Nole for No. 2 spot.

      Gonna take an upset for anyone to beat Federer at Wimby. Andy is on his way back and Milos is a definite dark horse candidate.


      • It will certainly be interesting. Murray’s worst surface is clay and he’s starting to look like a top player again. I don’t think he has what it takes to beat Wawrinka or Cilic but I’m glad he’s living up to his ranking somewhat. Regarding Fed, I think he is the clear favorite but we have to consider the lay-off and age. I know the lay-off didn’t hurt him any earlier this year but at this point in his career 3-4 months is an eternity. If all goes well he will win, regarding US open, anything can happen. Either Fed, Nadal or someone new will win it there imo.

  5. Nole had a composed press conference. He made the honest admission that he was fried mentally in the third set and Thiem played with a lot of confidence in the last two sets. He said that other top players have gone through situations where they have not won top titles. But he views it as a challenge and will work towards regaining the winning edge

    • Saving those two set points in the 1st (which Thiem played great to save) and winning the set gave him a massive confidence boost, and was a real downer for Novak. After that, when Thiem’s level didn’t drop, Nole lost belief. We’re not used to seeing that, but it’s not hard to understand when the other guy is hitting the ball past you at 160kph on the backhand.

  6. Watched the 3rd set. Theim was in God mode. What a performance. Kind of makes me worry. Always thought he was a worse opponent for Rafa than Nole.
    Rafa cannot let Theim dominate. He can get really hot once he starts dominating.

    I see him dominating RG soon. Hopefully not this year.

    • Thiem played at that level for most of the match; it was just that Novak’s level really dropped in that last set.

  7. I kept saying after madrid that matches against Rafa will help Thiem a lot. He has matured so much.


  8. Def. see Theim winning a set against Rafa. Even 2. Have not seen anyone not named Nadal play that well in RG. (Since 05)

      • Atul is talking about playing well at throughout. Thiem’s been really dominant from his first match

        • Yes. That’s what I meant. I believe we are seeing a multiple RG winner. Just hope its not this year.

          • Still Stan 2015. It’s not like he only played one great match in the final; he played even better beating Roger in the QF.

          • I guess Alex Zverev will be Thiem’s main rival at the FO. The way Thiem plays, I doubt he could sustain it into his late twenties or early thirties. Hes more about raw power and hard hitting, even though he’s trying to add in more dimensions into his game. His game will be affected as he grows older and beginning to lose his physical power. He’s the younger version of Stan but not as experienced.

            Stan started winning late, in his late twenties so perhaps that’s why he’s still good into his thirties.

            Rafa OTOH, is a tactical player and so even if he’s slower and less powerful as he ages, he’s able to play a tactical game to win his match(es).

        • Stan did play well throughout FO2015 and that’s why he could beat Djoko, who’s also playing well, in the final. When Stan won his slam titles, he normally played well throughout the tournament; he wasn’t as great at USO2016 but still survived to reach the final to beat a subpar Djoko there.

          In fact Stan had beaten some quality players at FO2015 before beating Djoko in the final. Thiem’s opponents, other than Djoko, weren’t of the same quality imo.

        • VR, Thiem’s opponents weren’t that tough to start with, missing Goffin. Goffin would give Thiem a run for his money, playing like a Djoko at 80% (not a subpar Djoko of course).

        • So I guess we won’t have to see anymore if those noleisbsck hashtags!

          Now it’s Fed is back!

          I can only imagine what I would have had to read if Novak demolished Thiem!

          I just want to congratulate those who stuck with their beliefs and picked Thiem to win!

          I didn’t think it would go down like that!

          I wish Rafa had a full match at least. I want him ready for the semifinal!

          Rafa is #2 now!

          • Now I have to see my recording of the match to check out how Thiem pulled it off!

            Wow! What a day!

          • NNY said:

            “If my ego and self-worth depended on being right about a tennis match, then I would consider myself in big trouble.”

            “This is not a battle of egos or a contest to be right.”



            • Hawkeye,

              I am not the one who put those hashtags at the bottom of every post! You did! You went after anyone who dared to disagree and question if Novak is back!

              Hey no need to be spiteful about it! Thanks for quoting me again! Maybe you will learn something and not let your ego get in the way! Those words were true then and are true now!

              It would have been nice if you could have just said you were wrong this time. But that would be expecting too much!

              I was wrong about Thiem because I didn’t think he could pull it off. But I am okay and happy to admit it!

              Can you do the same?

            • “This is not a battle of egos or a contest to be right.”

              “Hey no need to be spiteful about it!”

              Wow, “someone” is being “absurd” channeling their inner Trump.


          • NNY, is the Rafa-Thiem semis getting played tomorrow (Thursday)? If it is, then I would argue that Rafa only having to play basically one set could potentially be a good thing for him! If they are playing tomorrow, and Rafa had ended up having a long(ish) match today, then that could have taken a lot out him to come back and play Thiem tomorrow, right? However, if their semifinal match is on Friday, then I definitely see your point that Rafa may have preferred a full match…

            I honestly really hope that we get an awesome match between Rafa and Thiem. I will be highly disappointed if Thiem doesn’t truly show up to play… It should help him that he got the Nole match done in relatively straight-forward straight sets. But if their match is tomorrow, I could easily see Thiem being too worn out to even try to take on Rafa the day after crushing Nole. Yes, the match was relatively short, but I’m sure he had to get so mentally hyped up to blast Nole off the court like that, so it could backfire on him like it so often does… If Thiem shows up to really play, then I’ve got Rafa winning in 5. If we get the usual post-beating-of-a-big-four-player Thiem, then I think Rafa will win in straight sets.

            • Oh ok, nice! Thanks Jim Courier! Btw, you were one of my favorite players growing up. In fact, I’ve always felt like you under appreciated… Since you’re the real Jim a Courier, can I have your autograph?! 🙂

      • Hawkeye,

        No need to get so pissy about it!

        Cheap shot about me channeling my inner Trump! But I guess that’s all you got!

        Too bad! Where is your sense of humor about it all? Still can’t admit you were wrong! Oh well, you still have Fed! That hashtag works!

        • nny STILL doesn’t get it.

          More inner Trump:

          “No need to get so pissy about it!
          Too bad! Where is your sense of humor about it all? ”

          Glass houses are everywhere.

          As Trump would say….


      • Kevin,

        Your question was answered by vamosrafa. But I liked reading your take on how it could all play out. I am not sure what to think now that Thiem beat Novak in such impressive fashion. He won’t be physically tired. As far as the mental aspect of it, that remains to be seen. How much did it take out of him to beat Novak? Or is he so hungry that it won’t matter?

        I would have preferred to see Rafa play a whole match. He thrives on match play to get the rhythm and timing on his shots. But it is what it is. PCB was never going to be able to give him a match. I think Thiem lucked out in it having to face Goffin.

  9. Thiem was fried after beating Rafa in Rome by playing high risk tennis that’s why he went down easily to Djoker in the SF not because Djokovic is a bad match for him. People love to jump to conclusions based on one match.

  10. Actually, unless Rafa does very well at grass warm ups and Federer doesn’t, Federer will likely be seeded second at Wimbledon, Rafole will likely be 3 and 4 seed so they won’t be in the tsame half.

    Murray better keep getting back in time for Wimby or all is lost.


  11. RT: Asked if he wanna take a break from tennis:”Trust me,I’m thinking about many things right now”.Wow. Novak adds “But I have responsibilities”

    Hey-hey! Ho-ho! Pepe le Pew has got-to-go!
    (Rinse. Repeat.)


  12. RT: Novak Djokovic will drop out of the world’s top two for the first time since July 2011.”


  13. As Nole’s mom once said (incorrectly): “The King is dead.”

    Karma being a bitch and all…

  14. Rigged draw believers are everywhere…

    Ricky Dimon‏ @Dimonator 2h2 hours ago
    disaster of epic proportions that Nadal-Thiem is not the final. But hey, at least it wasn’t the QFs which is what I though the draw would do


    • Maybe,the riggers made a mistake – or there was a counter-rigging conspiracy and a mole shuffled Thiem into Nole’s quarter 😉

      • But it is telling that Ricky actually anticipated that “the draw would do” something. That’s not exactly how we talk about truly random events.

  15. Wow, Thiem beats Nole in QF by almost the exact tsame scoreline that Nole beat Rafa at the same stage in 2015.

    5-3-1 vs 6-3-0.


  16. Thiem talks about Rafa’s forehand and says it is one of the the best shots ever and it is difficult to control it. He added that he’ll try to put Rafa in uncomfortable positions on the forehand but he is feels he will be conceding quite a few winners.

    Rafa’s forehand was BAD in Rome. It will be a beast on Friday. Rafa’s backhand is very good as well so won’t be easy to get short balls.

    Rafa in Rome was zero indication of his level.

    Thiem will be playing at PC for the first time ever. The king of clay holds the advantage. Rafa in 4 sets is my pick.

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