PARIS • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That was exactly what Dominic Thiem did before he finally defeated Novak Djokovic yesterday at the French Open in his sixth meeting with the Serb.
The Austrian demolished the defending champion 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-0 in a stunning upset to set up a semi-final clash with nine-time champion Rafael Nadal of Spain.
"It's a dream to beat Novak for the first time and reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros again," said Thiem, who was beaten by Djokovic in straight sets in the semi-finals here last year.
"It's amazing for me. Before I had a 0-5 head-to-head against him. It was really a dream. But it was tricky today, it was windy and cold. It was important to move well and hit clean.
"It's also amazing how difficult it is to go deep in a Grand Slam because you have to play the best guys round after round and it's not getting easier on Friday (against Nadal)."
His victory also piled the pressure back onto 12-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic to prove that he is still a contender at the Majors, following a second-round exit at the Australian Open in January.
The defeat was the world No. 2's first straight-sets loss at a Major in four years and comes just 12 months after he completed the career Grand Slam in Paris. He held all four Majors then.
ONE TO REMEMBER
It's amazing for me. Before I had a 0-5 head-to-head against him. But it was tricky today, it was windy and cold. It was important to move well and hit clean.
DOMINIC THIEM , the world No. 7, on what it took to defeat 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic to reach his second French Open semi-finals.
The 30-year-old also suffered a first 6-0 - or bagel - at a Slam since the 2005 US Open, while the defeat will also see him slip out of the world's top two for the first time in six years.
Djokovic, who teamed up with Andre Agassi ahead of the tournament, squandered two set points in the 10th game of the opener yesterday and things got steadily worse.
Thiem pounced on his lifeline, taking the set after 73 minutes when the Serb dumped a backhand in the net.
By that stage, Nadal was already back in the locker room, safely into the semi-finals.
His opponent and compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta retired because of an injury over on Philippe Chatrier with Nadal leading 6-2, 2-0 after 51 minutes.
Djokovic, who had needed five sets to beat Diego Schwartzman in the third round, was 0-3 down in the second set as Thiem found the angles with unerring accuracy.
The 23-year-old Austrian wrapped up the set in the ninth game, with Djokovic managing just five winners.
The Serb was on the ropes and was broken in the first game of the third set.
The set was over in 20 minutes, with Djokovic winning just eight points, leaving the court with plenty to ponder ahead of Wimbledon next month.
"Nothing was going my way and everything was going his way," he told reporters. "He deserved to win, he was definitely the better player today. He made it difficult, he has really heavy spin and plays quick.
"It's unfortunate to finish at Roland Garros the way I did today. It's a fact that I'm not playing close to my best."
Thiem trails Nadal 2-4 in career meetings but is the only man to beat the 14-time Major champion on clay this year after winning in the Rome quarter-finals.
"In Rome it was not a good day for me," said Nadal. "He's a very good player. He hits the ball very hard. He's very powerful on both sides. Forehand, backhand, serve.
"It's up to me now to avoid being put in uncomfortable situations."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON