French Open 2016: Novak Djokovic enters 30th slam semi-final, faces Dominic Thiem
Paris: Fast-rising Austrian Dominic Thiem set up a French Open semi-final showdown with top seed Novak Djokovic by defeating Belgium's David Goffin in a tough four-setter on Thursday.
The 22-year-old Thiem won 4-6, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4, 6-1 to make the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time and underline his place at the topmost level.
But to go a step further he will have to defeat the the tournament's hot favourite, having lost both of his previous matches against Djokovic.
Chasing the one Grand Slam title he has yet to win, Djokovic earlier scored a comfortable straight-sets win over Tomas Berdych to make the last four.
"The first two sets were really good tennis. For both of us it was not easy with the conditions, but I am really happy right now," said Thiem.
"It's a bit unreal, but I am still in mid-tournament, so I have to focus for tomorrow or Saturday, I don't know when."
Both Thiem and 25-year-old Goffin were playing in a Grand Slam quarter-final for a first time.
In front of a couple of hundred spectators huddled into a damp and chilly Court Suzanne Lenglen, the Austrian took an early 3-1 lead with a break, but Goffin then took control winning five out of the next six games to take the first set 6-4.
Another break at the start of the second set gave Goffin the chance to pull away, but Thiem, who had won more matches on clay that any other player this year (24), rallied to level at 2-2.
Another exchange of breaks in what had become a classic claycourt war of attrition kept things level and forced a tie-break that saw both men fail to convert set points before the more aggressive Thiem edged it.
The slightly-built Goffin adopted a change of tactics to start the third, making several forays to the net and that paid dividends with an immediate break.
He held firmly on to that advantage until 4-3 when Thiem pegged him back again, breaking serve with a trademark forehand drive down the line.
He then set up two set points two games later with some more beefy hitting and converted the first of those when Goffin failed to cope with a deep forehand drive.
Thiem was on top now, dominating Goffin with his greater weight of shot,and back-to-back breaks at the start of the fourth meant the way was clear for Thiem to record one of the biggest wins of his fledgling career.
'Lucky not to be disqualified'
Djokovic reached his 30th Grand Slam semi-final on Thursday to move two wins away from a first French Open title and a career Grand Slam but admitted he was lucky not to have been disqualified.
The world number one, a three-time runner-up and seeking a maiden Roland Garros crown to complete the career Grand Slam, defeated Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-3, claiming a place in an eighth French Open semi-final and sixth in succession.
Thursday's quarter-final was played out in a damp chill where temperatures nosedived to 12 degrees.
But it didn't stop the Serb from claiming a 24th win in 26 meetings against Berdych and his 11th in a row.
Djokovic raced through the first set with breaks in the seventh and ninth games before stretching out to a 4-2 lead in the second.
Berdych broke for the first time to get to 3-4 but Djokovic restored his advantage in the 12th game for a two sets lead.
The two men exchanged breaks in the first two games of the third before Berdych became angry over the deteriorating wet conditions.
"It's a circus, just one big circus," he fumed at tournament referee Wayne McKewen who took the players off for a brief stoppage to allow the rain to pass.
On the resumption, Djokovic broke for 5-3 and took victory when Berdych dumped a service return into the net.
Djokovic was playing for the third day in succession after a washout on Monday and just two hours of action on Tuesday.
If he is to win an elusive French Open title, the top seed, who is also the Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion, will have to play five days in six although he will start against Thiem as the favourite having won both their previous matches.
Friday's other semi-final will see second seed Andy Murray take on Swiss third seed and defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
The 20-year-old Pole, who won the title at Roland Garros in 2020, is over 2,000 points ahead of defending French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova in the new WTA rankings.
Carlos Alcaraz, who only turned 19 last Thursday, became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on clay at the same tournament on his way to a second Masters 1000 title in Madrid.
Medvedev went under the knife after losing in the quarter-finals in Miami, meaning the Geneva loss was his only clay-court match ahead of Paris.