Dominic Thiem is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him as he chases his first grand slam title.
Having pulled off the best win of his career to knock out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, the young Austrian now finds himself facing nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in today’s last-four clash.
No man has beaten Djokovic and Nadal back-to-back and won a grand slam, and even if Thiem were to get past the Spaniard, he would still have to defeat either former champion Stan Wawrinka or three-time grand slam winner Andy Murray in the final.
“It’s a joke how tough it is to win a slam,” said Thiem.
He is looking to join Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro as the only players other than Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Wawrinka, and Roger Federer to win grand slam titles in the last 12 years.
Thiem can at least take confidence from knowing he won his last match against Nadal, in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open three weeks ago.
It was a sign of the 23-year-old’s growing maturity on clay in particular.
He had lost to Nadal twice in the preceding weeks, heavily in Barcelona and then narrowly in Madrid.
“It’s going to be the fourth match against him in five or six weeks,” said Thiem. “There’s not really big secrets. He’s again in his best shape. So it’s going to be the toughest match you can imagine.”
For his part, Nadal is wary of the threat Thiem will pose.
“Thiem is a tough player,” said Nadal. “I won in Barcelona, Madrid, and I lost to him in Rome. We can talk about statistics for hours, but what is important is to consider the match.
“If I play well, I hope that I will be able to book my spot in the final. If I don’t play well, I will be out of the tournament.”
Meanwhile, Andy Murray is reaping the benefits of being healthy, according to coach Ivan Lendl.
From hugely unpromising beginnings, the world No.1 has progressed to another grand slam semi-final.
He faces Stan Wawrinka today looking to repeat last year’s victory, which earned him a first final appearance at Roland Garros.
Lendl has reunited with Murray for the first tournament since the Australian Open having watched his charge’s struggles from afar.
He insisted he was not too concerned because he knew illness and injury had badly affected Murray’s training.
Lendl said: “Obviously winning is better but I knew the reasons why he is struggling. It was just a bit of bad luck.
“With the shingles and the elbow and then flu and then another flu and so on and so on. You just need to put in consistent work before you can expect consistent results.
“He’s won five matches and I’m hoping he can win one more tomorrow.”
Title favourite Simona Halep will face newcomer Jelena Ostapenko in the women’s French Open final tomorrow. After Ostapenko celebrated her 20th birthday in spectacular fashion with a 7-6 (7/4) 3-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Timea Bacsinszky, Halep defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3.
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