Monday September 20, 2021

Cecchinato shocks Djokovic to reach semis

AFP
June 06, 2018

PARIS: World number 72 Marco Cecchinato became the first Italian man in 40 years to reach a Grand Slam semi-final on Tuesday with a breathtaking 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7-6 (13/11) epic victory over 12-time major winner Novak Djokovic.

Cecchinato, who had never won a Grand Slam match in his career before Roland Garros, goes on to face Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem for a place in Sunday´s final.

In an epic fourth set tiebreaker, Djokovic saved three match points but wasted three set points as Cecchinato became the lowest-ranked man in the semi-finals in Paris since 100th-ranked Andrei Medvedev in 1999. In a roller-coaster of a quarter-final, both men were warned for coaching, 2016 champion Djokovic required two medical timeouts and the Italian was docked a point for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Djokovic also squandered three set points in the second set and failed to serve out the fourth in the ninth game after being 5-2 in front.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem reached his third successive French Open semi-final on Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of a hobbled and exhausted Alexander Zverev who admitted he was close to quitting the tie. Thiem, the Austrian seventh seed, goes on to face either 2016 champion and 12-time major winner Novak Djokovic or Italy’s world number 72 Marco Cecchinato for a place in Sunday’s final.

German second seed Zverev simply ran out of gas, paying a heavy price for needing three successive five-set matches to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. His Roland Garros marathon also left him physically drained — he needed his left thigh strapped in the second set.

“He is one of the fittest guys on the tour so it was difficult for him today,” said Thiem, the only man to have defeated 10-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal on clay this year. “I hope we have many more matches at the Grand Slams but when we are 100 percent.

The statistics made bleak reading for Zverev — he finished with 42 unforced errors and just 19 winners. Zverev said he will undergo an MRI to discover the seriousness of his injury. He admitted he was also close to quitting at 1-5 down in the second set. In a tight first set of a match played in overcast, heavy conditions, Thiem converted the only break point off a backhand winner in the seventh game before securing the opener with an ace. Zverev, who had spent more than two and a half hours than his Austrian opponent getting to this stage, hit 13 unforced errors to Thiem’s miserly eight. A double break took the 24-year-old Austrian to 4-1 in the second set before Zverev needed a medical timeout for a leg injury.

With his left thigh heavily strapped, the 21-year-old German was soon two sets down and looking at having to become the first player to win four consecutive five-setters if he was to make the semi-finals.

Earlier in the day Keys, the 13th seed, reached the semi-finals for the first time by seeing off Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7/5), 6-4. “I’m excited to play my good friend in the semi-finals, we’ve already played in the US Open final and it’s really good for American tennis,” said Stephens.

The 25-year-old, who was ranked 957 just six weeks before her maiden Grand Slam triumph last year after a series of injury problems, is now into the semi-finals of a major for the third time. The two players traded breaks early in the match, before Stephens produced some ferocious hitting at the end of a marathon eighth game to give herself the chance to serve for the opening set. She did just that, with the help of a sumptuous backhand drop shot.