Dominic Thiem has been the second-best player on this clay season, with the realest credential around: the only player to beat Rafael Nadal. During that run, Thiem’s worst loss came not at the hands of Rafa, but Novak Djokovic, who offered a brief flashback to the world-beating Novak of one year ago in a 6-1, 6-0 rout in Rome. But today, on the bigger stage of the French Open, Thiem returned the favor—and the bagel—in their 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 quarterfinal. This win, Thiem’s first over Djokovic in six meetings, was an upset in seeding alone (No. 6 over No. 2), because in 2017 the 23-year-old has come into his own and the 30-year-old defending champion has never looked less like himself.
Djokovic is now due to slip out of the top two spots in the rankings for the first time in six years, a testament to his dominance of the tour which is finally beginning to lapse. For reference: Djokovic hasn’t been shut out in a set at a Grand Slam since the 2005 U.S. Open. In the final set today he won only two points on return. By that juncture the Serb was mentally gone, already somewhere far away from Paris. Djokovic’s backhand in particular let him down, leaking 21 unforced errors versus just 3 winners over the course of this match. Thiem’s, meanwhile, was a bludgeon.
You can watch the whole highlight reel without seeing a single point where Djokovic looks in control, including those that he won. He seems more content with shapeless, neutral rallies than we’ve seen in years past; even his attacks to the corners were too shallow to apply any serious pressure on Thiem, who remains comfortably behind the baseline, as is his preferred position, hitting everything back with big pace and spin.
If you want a visual representation of how these two players’ fortunes reversed, watch the matchup between them from the semifinals of last year’s French Open, which Djokovic won in straights. Thiem has become so much more consistent since then. Meanwhile, Djokovic’s shots used to have so much pop they practically made a different sound.
Thiem will go on to play Rafa, and he’s probably the only person qualified to halt his relentless march towards his tenth Roland Garros title. Djokovic had a solid run to the quarters but now will be left to solve the puzzle of his present career; whether Andre Agassi is a part of that process remains to be seen.