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Tennis | 10sBalls • Ricky’s Preview And Pick For The Australian Open Semifinals: Thiem Versus Zverev

By Ricky Dimon

For a second consecutive Grand Slam, there will be a Big 3-free semifinal.

Following last year’s U.S. Open semifinal showdown between Daniil Medvedev and Grigor Dimitrov, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev will square off in a surprising Australian Open semi on Friday.

Thiem and Zverev are facing each other for the ninth time in their careers, with Thiem holding a 6-2 lead in the head-to-head series. They have met three times on hard courts and the Austrian pulled ahead 2-1 in that series with a 7-5, 6-3 win in the semis of the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals. Both of their previous slam encounters have come at the French Open, where Thiem took care of business on his preferred clay-court surface in 2016 and 2018.

“We’re good friends,” this fortnight’s fifth seed said. “I’m happy for him, as well, that he’s playing so [well] here. He made his breakthrough at a Grand Slam. We have no secrets from each other. We played so many times, also on very special occasions…at the ATP Finals (semis), French Open quarters. It’s a nice rivalry we have. It’s great that we add an Australian Open semifinals.”

Zverev’s 2018 Roland Garros run marked his first quarterfinal appearance at a slam and now he is through to his first major SF. From basically out of nowhere after struggling mightily at the ATP Cup, the 22-year-old German has dismissed Marco Cecchinato, Egor Gerasimov, Fernando Verdasco, Andrey Rublev, and Stan Wawrinka.

Whereas Zverev lost only one set to Wawrinka, Thiem’s trip to the last four was much tougher. The 26-year-old Austrian needed five sets to get past Alex Bolt in round two and his quarterfinal against Rafael Nadal on Wednesday was a 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6) thriller that required four hours and 10 minutes. Thiem also defeated Adrian Mannarino, Taylor Fritz, and Gael Monfils. The 26-year-old will play in his fifth major semifinal (first outside of Roland Garros) and is bidding for a third final appearance

“(It’s) going to be a close match again,” Thiem commented. “Same if two top-10 players play each other semis of a slam. The deciding moments are very small; small margins. I’m looking forward to it. I try to regenerate as good as possible and then try to be ready 100 percent for Friday.”

Zverev will have no physical problems after coasting through five matches, but the intangibles are question marks. In addition to struggling against Thiem, he has no experience at this point of majors.

“I’ve won Masters Series, World Tour Finals,” the world No. 7 noted. “But the Grand Slams were always where I kind of even wanted it too much. I was doing things in a way (that was) too professional. I was not talking to anybody. I wasn’t going out with friends. I wasn’t having dinner. I was just really almost too, too focused.

“(I) changed that a little bit this week. I’m doing much more things outside the court. I also was playing [so] bad at (the) ATP Cup that I didn’t have any expectations. I wasn’t really expecting myself in the semifinals.”

Even though Zverev has already overachieved at Melbourne Park and he remains an underdog, the pressure undoubtedly ratchets up in the semis. Thiem knows what it takes to reach a major final and his impressive hard-court form over the past 11 months should carry him to another win over Zverev.

Pick: Thiem in 4

Editors Note: Zverev In 4

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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