Novak Djokovic suffered a quarter-final defeat to Dominic Thiem
But the manner in which Dominic Thiem broke him in the second set was a measure of just how emphatic his 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over the defending champion was.
The Austrian reached the semi-final this time last year, too, but toppling Djokovic in just 2hr 15m was a sign that the 23-year-old no. 6 seed is really coming of age.
Even in the first set, Djokovic racket was spinning across the clay, thrown there this time after two double-faults and a poor backhand error spoiled the fact he had just broken himself.
Thiem still had to save two set points to take the first set to a tie-break, but having nosed ahead he was handed it on a plate when Djokovic slapped a backhand carelessly into the net.
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The Serb’s tumble occurred in the second game of the second set as Djokovic tried to turn sharply to chase a ball played past him. The break was all that Thiem needed and with a cool head he steered the match into a third set without Djokovic being able to lay a glove on him.
Djokovic, a popular figure here, tried to get the Roland Garros crowd behind him but they were two busy enjoying his opponent’s aggressive shot-making and energy.
Thiem had three break points in the very first game of the third set and by now Djokovic was looking positively unsure of himself as he flapped the third into the net with a forehand.
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Dominic Thiem will play Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals of the French Open
The next Djokovic service game, Thiem broke him to love. Djokovic was clearly out of sorts and after hitting another regulation backhand wide for yet another break, trudged towards his chair at 5-0 down staring at the abyss.
It is over a year since Djokovic lost a set to love – against Thomaz Belluci in Rome, a match he went on to win.
But nothing seemed to be coming off his racket straight any more. Djokovic saved the first of three match points, a final act of defiance perhaps.
However, the cutest of backhands down the line and he could only acclaim Thiem a worthy winner.