French Open: Novak Djokovic hopes to be fourth time lucky
Both the World No. 1s - Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams - are looking to create history this weekend.
Champions never lose their spirit, no matter how many times they get battered and bruised. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been on the losing end of the French Open final three times before. Yet that has not diminished his hunger at all.
On Friday, he faced an opponent who has been singled out by many as the leader of the next generation. At 22 years with three titles this year already, Dominic Thiem is the young, hot blood that many are looking for who can challenge the established heroes of the sport.
The two met this year at the Miami Open where the Austrian pushed the numero uno player before losing in straight sets. However, this time on a different surface and in one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, Djokovic was a different player altogether.
A 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win that he self-acknowledged as his ‘best performance of the tournament’ was what he crushed Thiem with during their semi-final.
The Serb was totally in no-nonsense mode, breaking Thiem four times in the first two sets. In the third set, the Austrian, who is set to enter the top 10 this Monday, managed to inch ahead 3-0. But that was the only advantage he had before the top seed came back to slam shut the door.
Djokovic had lost the French Open finals in 2012 and 2014 to nine-time champion Rafael Nadal while last year, he squandered a one-set lead to go down to Stan Wawrinka.
Historic day for British tennis
This time, his final opponent is a different one and one whom he knows since their junior days. Andy Murray, now a big force on clay, will lock horns with the Serb this Sunday in his first ever Roland Garros final.
The Scot does have a slight advantage over the World No. 1. Just a week before the French Open, the World No. 1 upended Djokovic to win the Rome Masters.
Murray admitted after his 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory over the defending champion Stan Wawrinka that he never expected to reach a final in Paris. But his performance on Friday showed very much that he deeply wanted it.
He overturned a three-match losing record to the Swiss in sparkling fashion. As Wawrinka kept on misfiring, Murray simply soared in confidence and quickly grabbed the first two sets.
The Swiss kept the contest alive as he broke the Scot in the 10th game to take the third set. But his joy was short-lived. With Murray breaking in the very first game of the fourth set, Wawrinka failed to inflict any damage on his opponent’s game and surrendered his title in 2 hours and 35 minutes.
This win makes the 29-year-old the first Briton to make it through to a final of this claycourt Major since Bunny Austin in 1937.
Rematch of 2015 Wimbledon final in women’s singles
On the women’s side, 22-year-old Garbine Muguruza once more reinforced the fact that she is the best of the upcoming generation as she reached her second Major final in less than 12 months. Last year, she impressed everyone on the verdant lawns of Wimbledon by making it all the way to the final.
This year, it is a different surface but Muguruza was up for the challenge. With a 6-2, 6-4 victory, she stopped 2010 runner-up Samantha Stosur to become the first Spanish woman in a Roland Garros summit clash since Conchita Martinez in 2000.
Interestingly, Muguruza now faces the same opponent she squared off against at SW19 final last year. It is none other than Serena Williams who had to play for the third day in a row on Friday due to a huge backlog of matches caused by the incessant downpour.
That extra burden has surely taken a toll on the defending champion and it is even being reported that she is struggling with an adductor injury. It naturally wasn’t easy for her against the tournament’s surprise semi-finalist – the 58th ranked Kiki Bertens, who is currently playing the best tennis of her career.
The Dutchwoman led Serena 5-3 and she even had a couple of set points. But Williams’ willpower refused to submit so early. She clawed her way back to sneak out the first set in a tie-break.
Bertens kept on pressing and made in-roads into Serena’s serve in the very first game of the second set. But the 34-year-old American, as always, stamped her authority once more for the win.
As Serena seeks her Open Era record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam, she has to be careful – the only time that she and Muguruza met in Paris prior to this, the Spaniard handed her a 6-2, 6-2 loss.