Firstly, we had Dominic Thiem hammering Zverev 6/4 6/2 6/1. Sascha was clearly suffering from a hamstring injury. There will be plenty of people who will say he got what he deserved here. Three consecutive five-setters haven’t been champions, or for that matter and more likely runners-up form. The one thing Zverev does take credit for today, is staying out there to give Thiem the win as opposed to by retirement. Sporting behaviour in fairness and I was probably quite surprised. The crowd were booing and there must have been times where he would have thought ‘f**k this’!
Then we had Nole putting in a very strange performance by his standards against Marco Cecchinato. The Italian was once again inspired, ripping that backhand down the line at every opportunity. Djokovic was well below par though. The Serb had the trainer out a couple of times early on for treatment on his neck. In truth, this just wasn’t one of his days at all. Having got himself back in the match from two sets down, he managed to hand Cecchinato back the advantage. After winning the third set comfortably and having points for a double break in the fourth we looked to heading the distance. Nole couldn’t press home his advantage though. In the fourth set breaker, there was drama galore. It was a 13/11 tie-break, which had set points and match points, on serve and on return.
It sounds like Djokovic was livid in the press conference after. He actually said he didn’t know if he was going to play on the grass. The lad needs some time to think. At this stage of the tournament, I wasn’t expecting this kind of performance from him. Incredible fight from Cecchinato to hang in there, it was him out of the two of them that didn’t flinch on the big stage.
Daria Kasatkina had one of those days where it wouldn’t quite go for her. The truth was more to do with Sloane Stephens brilliance though. She is proving once again that she has that ability to step is up at keys stages of big events. I feel she is so relaxed right now and that she just wants to enjoy this. I haven’t got everthing right in Paris but I feel Sloane is a real, real danger, as I have said in last few rounds. With each round she seems to be zoning in more and more. The court coverage and hitting are spot on. Having had a tight third round (8/6 in the third against Giorgi), Sloane has beaten Kontaveit and Kastakina with minimal fuss. Kasatkina will be a top player, we all know that but Sloane taught her a lesson today.
In a repeat of the US Open Final, Sloane will play close pal Madison Keys in the semis in France. Keys came through against the feisty Yulia Putintseva, having come from 3/5* down in the opener to win in straights. It wasn’t always hassle free but you never really fancied the upset. Keys is yet to drop a set but it will be more than just a step up in class in the next round for her. Sloane will get a few more balls back than most but has that explosive power to back her up too. Let’s see, my hunch is certainly with Sloane here.
Andy Del Potro