Novak Djokovic has experienced just about everything in his 16 years on tour. But his five-set Roland Garros semi-final classic with Dominic Thiem, which spanned two days and featured numerous rain delays, winds topping 39 miles per hour and even a flying umbrella, was a first.
“One of the worst conditions I’ve ever been part of,” said Djokovic. “Obviously when you’re playing in hurricane kind of conditions, it’s hard to perform your best. It’s really just kind of surviving in these kind of conditions and trying to hold your serve and play one ball more in the court than your opponent. That’s what it felt like playing yesterday, to be honest.
“[Thiem] played great, especially in the important moments. Made some really good slices and passing shots. He just managed to put one extra ball in the court at the end of the match. He’s playing great tennis. He showed why he’s one of the best players in the world and I wish him the best for the final.”
Thiem Tops Djokovic In Five-Set Epic To Reach Roland Garros Final
Djokovic was just two matches from completing his second “Nole Slam” by holding all four majors at once. The World No. 1 had history on his side, having won 10 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals entering Saturday’s match and going on to lift the trophy on eight occasions. But while the Serbian was visibly emotional in the latter stages of the fifth set, he insisted the possibility of creating history wasn’t on his mind.
“There is always something large at stake when you’re one of the top players of the world and play in the biggest tournaments,” said Djokovic. “It’s not any different this time.”
Despite the loss, Djokovic can be pleased with turning his form around during the clay-court season. After failing to reach the semi-finals in Indian Wells, Miami and Monte-Carlo, he rebounded with his 33rd ATP Masters 1000 title at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Tsitsipas) and a runner-up finish at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (l. to Nadal). He also gained ATP Rankings points this fortnight by surpassing his quarter-final finish from last year.
As the World No. 1 gears up for his next event, a title defence at Wimbledon, he believes there is plenty to build on from the past month.
“I don’t think I have done too much wrong in the entire tournament…I played great tennis throughout most of the clay-court season. I didn’t drop a set here until the semis,” said Djokovic. “This match was always going to be tough because Dominic is a fantastic player in general, but especially on clay. It’s just unfortunate [that in] these kinds of matches, one or two points decide a winner.”