We’ve just about caught up with the backlog of matches at the 2016 French Open and the men’s semi finals are set for Friday on what should be pretty much a rain-free day.
That’s according to the weather forecasters of course, so I wouldn’t be too confident about that, but what we do know is that it’ll be another chilly and sun-free day, so conditions will still be slow.
Dominic Thiem managed to just about hit through them and land our ‘long shot’ wager for Thursday at a nice price of 4.40 when he came from a set down to beat David Goffin by three sets to one.
The pivotal moment in that one was the set two tie break or possibly just before when Goffin served for a 2-0 lead, but in the breaker Thiem came up with the goods when within a point of staring a 0-2 deficit in the face.
“In the second set I didn't really think that I'm going to win this match because he was just on top of me," Thiem said. "I didn't know what to do because he was returning well. He didn't make any mistakes."
He pulled it out of the bag though and goes forward to take on Novak Djokovic at 14:00 UK time on Friday.
Dominic Thiem vs Novak Djokovic
The world number one stepped up a few gears on Thursday against Tomas Berdych on another drizzly day in Paris in a 3-0 win, but it wasn’t without its difficulties.
After a fine opening set Djokovic rather lost his way and had to scrap to win set two before almost defaulting when at attempted racquet bounce very nearly took out a line judge.
By the laws of the game that should have been an instant default, but it just missed, and he was also a little fortunate in the timing of the rain delay, which clearly riled Berdych, who referred to the tournament as “a circus.”
It’s hard to argue with that assessment by the Czech and we’ll see what Friday brings in terms of laughably bad organisation and decision-making from the tournament officials.
They should have a full day to play with and Thiem could probably have done with another day of rain to allow him to recharge the batteries before this third career clash with the world number one.
It certainly seemed like the Goffin match would go right down to the wire, but the Belgian rather collapsed mentally after the third set and went away quickly in the fourth.
So, Thiem may have enough reserves to compete, and his power will give Djokovic something to think about, but the Austrian will need to be a whole lot more clinical on break points than when he met Djokovic in Miami.
Thiem will probably be pleased that the match is scheduled for Suzanne Lenglen Court rather than Chatrier, having played there against Goffin, while Djokovic is the reverse, having played most often on Chatrier.
The of course there are nerves to take into account, with the Austrian likely to be feeling it on the occasion of a maiden Grand Slam semi final and against the world number one to boot.
The last-16 of the 2014 US Open was Thiem’s previous best at a major before this fortnight and he’s yet to better the last eight at a Masters 100, so this is far and away the biggest match of his career.
My feeling is that it’ll be a step too far for him against Djokovic in these circumstances and we saw how little effect the power of Berdych had against Djokovic in these conditions, so Thiem is unlikely to fare much better.
Thiem moves a lot better than Berdych of course and he’ll be hoping for the kind of performance that Stan Wawrinka came up with against Djokovic in last year’s final, but that is a massive ask.
I expect Djokovic to take this one in three or at worst four sets and -1.5 sets on Djokovic looks a ‘sure thing’, while the under 33.5 games at 2.0 looks decent value.
In the sense that I’m holding an each way voucher at 100-1 on Thiem for this French Open I hope I’ve written the Austrian off too readily, but I don’t see him winning this match unless Novak clatters an official with his racquet.
Sure thing: Back Djokovic -1.5 sets at 1.22
Value bet: Back under 33.5 games at 2.0