2018 French Open: Thiem eases past injured Zverev to reach semi-finals

The seventh seed from Austria will face either Novak Djokovic or Italian Marco Cecchinato in the last four.

2018 French Open: Thiem eases past injured Zverev to reach semi-finals
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Dominic Thiem reached the semi-finals of the French Open for the third year running after defeating an ailing Alexander Zverev in straight sets.

The eagerly anticipated match between two of the game's young stars lasted just one hour and 50 minutes, with Thiem prevailing 6-4 6-2 6-1 on the Philippe Chatrier Court.

Zverev, who had come through three five-set matches to reach the last eight, required a medical timeout at the start of the second set and was clearly affected in his first grand slam quarter-final.

Thiem, 24, is no stranger to this stage, though, after defeating Novak Djokovic in the last eight at Roland Garros 12 months ago.

The seventh seed could face the Serb again this year, too, if Djokovic defeats Italian Marco Cecchinato in the last eight.

Embed from Getty Images

Thiem could be Nadal's greatest threat 

Thiem had defeated Zverev in four of their six previous meetings on tour, however, the Austrian was seeking revenge after losing to his opponent in the final of the Madrid Masters last month.

Zverev had spent two and a half hours longer on court in his opening four matches, and after some lengthy baseline exchanges at the start of the match, the German's previous exploits began to show.

In cold and damp conditions, Thiem's powerful groundstrokes, amplified by heavy topspin, would have caused problems for almost anyone on the Parisian clay - maybe even Rafael Nadal.

Thiem did beat the Spaniard on the same surface in Madrid earlier this year, and may prove to be Nadal's main challenger if he was to reach the final on Sunday.

Zverev would also have relished the chance to try and topple the 10-time champion, however that seemed unlikely after his injury became clear at the start of the second set.

Embed from Getty Images

Zverev troubled by injury

At 3-3 in the opening set, the German dropped his serve for the first time after three forehand errors handed Thiem an early advantage.

Three games later, the Austrian served out the opener in 41 minutes, finishing with an ace.

A weary backhand saw Zverev lose his serve again at the start of the second set, and despite earning a break point in the following game - which Thiem saved after a spectacular all-court rally - the match evaporated as a contest after that.

Fully aware of his opponent's worsening condition, Thiem altered his tactics by throwing in a couple of drop shots, keeping his opponent on the run.

At 4-1 to the Austrian, Zverev took a medical timeout, when the upper part of his left leg was heavily taped.

Zverev left the court at the end of the second set and returned for the third, despite the fact his movement had clearly been hampered.

The German will now hope for a speedy recovery ahead of his grass-court season, which begins on 18 June at the Gerry Weber Open in Germany. 

Thiem, who impressively maintained his composure in the final set, will aim to reach his first major final on Friday.