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With the women’s final at French Open between Jelena Ostapenko and Simona Halep decided for Saturday, the eyeballs shift to men’s side of things to see who will play in the showdown on Sunday. For that, Rafael Nadal takes on Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka faces Andy Murray in rematch of last year. In terms of order of play, Murray and Wawrinka will be first on court at 4.15 PM IST on Friday and that will be followed by Nadal against Thiem.
Unlike all four women in the singles semi-finals with no Grand Slam titles between them, there is no such dramatics in the men’s fold. Nadal has nine Grand Slam titles at French Open alone and 14 in total; Wawrinka and Murray have three Grand Slams each with Thiem the only anomaly vying to win his first.
Dominic Thiem looks for giant killing part 2
Thiem produced a breathtaking masterclass against Djokovic to blow the Serb away completely. He saved two set points in the first but thereafter he dropped just three games while taking the third set with a bagel. A set to love on the defending champion in the quarterfinal! The Austrian walloped thundering forehands of over 150 kmph while whipping up over 3000 revolutions – something that can only be matched by one person – Nadal.
Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni, said there are plenty of similarities between the two in this department with subtle differences. “Well, it’s true that they both hit with a lot of topspin,” said Toni to New York Times. “There are some similarities, but I do think Thiem hits harder than Rafael, although Rafael, in my view, has a bit more skill.”
Thiem took a lighter take on the path to glory. Mostly because there is little he can do to get around it. “It’s a joke, how tough it is to win a Slam,” Thiem told reporters after the demolition of Djokovic. “Obviously now I beat Novak, but on Friday it is Nadal—the toughest opponent ever here in Roland Garros. Then, in the finals, there is another top star. That’s why it’s a Slam, it is because it’s such a tough achievement.”
Neither of the two men involved here have dropped a set in the tournament. Even more impressively, Nadal has conceded just 22 games so far – a record in the Open Era – an example of his far superior game on clay and at Roland Garros where he enjoys a 77-2 record. For Thiem, the biggest competitor on Friday won’t just be the left-handed, bandana-wearing, superhuman from Mallorca but he himself. For each time Thiem gets a big win, he follows it up by losing. It happened most recently at Rome Masters where Thiem beat Nadal but came out a day later to be crushed 1-6, 0-6 by Djokovic. “So far I have always played [a] way worse match the following day if I beat a top guy,” said Thiem, before adding. “So I hope I can improve that.”
Murray vs Wawrinka – the rematch
It was at this stage last year that Murray eclipsed Wawrinka in four sets to move forward into the final and lose to Djokovic for the Serb’s first French Open title. Murray, the world no 1, has barely played like one this year and yet has grinded it out to reach the semis. He acknowledged that the year hasn’t been his best and the three other semifinalists have fared so much better. “They are all obviously playing extremely well. Rafa’s had a great clay-court season, as has Thiem. Stan this tournament has played great. He won in Geneva so is obviously confident. I came in playing garbage. I’m the odd one out in the semis, but hopefully I can keep it up,” he said.
Murray comes into the semis with a see-saw battle with Nishikori where he once again battled it out in windy conditions. For Wawrinka it was more straightforward in a straight set win over Marin Cilic. Like Nadal and Thiem, Wawrinka hasn’t dropped a set this Roland Garros while Murray has dropped three.
In their 18th meeting, Djokovic leads 10-7 but Wawrinka has won three of their four meetings on clay but the Briton got the all important win at Roland Garros last year.
Murray who relies on his counter-attacking job and defensive groundstrokes deep behind the baseline would find the job get increasingly difficult amid bullets by Wawrinka – both on the serve and with the groundstrokes. Further, it is common knowledge by now that if there is someone who can hit through a defensive wall – it is Wawrinka.