Dominic Thiem admits he felt “empty” after exiting the French Open at the hands of Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals but the Austrian is already looking forward to getting back to that stage at a major soon.
Projected to crack the top-10 for the first time on Monday, Thiem has created waves this season on tour, and has amassed the second-most number of victories in 2016 – 41, just two wins behind leader Djokovic.
“Novak was just too strong today. That’s all I can say,” said Thiem on Friday after his semi-final in Paris.
“But still it inspires me to even work harder. I hope I get a new chance soon in the future.
“Right now I’m feeling empty, of course, but it’s normal. It’s after every tournament like this, all the pressure goes away a little bit.
“Of course also a little bit disappointment.”
Thiem will rise to No7 in the world when the new rankings come out in two days, and at 22, will be the youngest player in the top-10.
“It’s very nice. It’s a big milestone, I think, for every tennis player to break into the top-10. But, yeah, right now I’m not really happy about it, but I hope that I can be when I see the new ranking on Monday,” he said.
Thiem has so far proven to be the most successful prospect from the up-and-coming generation in tennis, and is expected to have a bright future in the sport.
He has four top-10 victories under his belt, owns six ATP titles and is now a grand slam semi-finalist.
Clay is his best surface and he leads the tour in number of wins on the red dirt this season with 25.
Asked how far he felt his level was from Djokovic after the match, Thiem said: “Well, I think he played really well today, but I also think that sometimes – or mostly throughout the match – I made it maybe a little bit too easy for him, too many mistakes.
“But, yeah, it’s tough against him. He doesn’t give you any presents. Return is unbelievable. It was already the problem yesterday that I didn’t get any free points with the serve.
“Yeah, then if you have to play basically every game without serve, without the advantage of serve, it’s going to be unbelievably tough against him.”
Djokovic heaped praise on the young Austrian yesterday and believes he will be sticking around at the top.
“He carries himself very well on and off the court for his age,” said Djokovic.
“He’s a leader of a new generation, very powerful, and has a lot of strength and variety in his game. I managed to handle his heavy spin very well today, but I’m sure that, as I told him after the match, we’re going to see a lot of him in the future if he continues doing so well.”
In the three-week period between the French Open and Wimbledon, Thiem is scheduled to play in the grass events in Stuttgart and Halle before heading to Mallorca to play in the Toni Nadal Cup exhibition.
Williams won that in straight sets for her 21st Grand Slam title, but Muguruza, at 22, 12 years younger than the American, has improved further since then.
The top seed and defending champion kept alive her hopes of a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title against unseeded Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens.
But her form was at best patchy as she laboured to a 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 semi-final win.
The fourth seeded Muguruza, meanwhile, underlined her fine form with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Australia’s Samantha Stosur to reach a Grand Slam final for just the second time.
Williams already looked out-of-sorts in her quarter-final on Thursday against 60th ranked Yulia Putintseva, having to claw her way back from a set and a break down to get through.
And it was another ponderous start from the three-time former winner against her 58th-ranked, opponent.
Bertens, who had never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament prior to Paris, went 2-0 up before Williams opened her account.
The Dutchwoman failed to convert a set point at 5-3 with Williams serving and then a pair of drop shots in the next game brought up a break-back point for the American which she converted with a big forehand drive.
Bertens appeared to be having trouble with an injury to her left calf muscle as Williams took the lead for the first time in the match, but she held firm to force a tie-break.
In that, Williams eased ahead 5-2 after losing the first point on her serve, but two botched volleys at the net saw her hand a set point back to Bertens before she found some form to take it 9/7.
The pair exchanged service breaks to get the second set underway and Bertens then failed to take two break points to get to 4-2.
She paid the price for that minutes later as Williams grabbed the break she needed to put the match away, needing four match points in the end.
Muguruza, who is the first Spanish woman in 16 years to reach the French Open final, has had it easier in the other half of the draw.
She was in command against 32-year-old Stosur, a former US Open champion, from the start but had difficulty putting away the match from 5-2 up in the second.
With the Suzanne Lenglen court barely half-full, Muguruza shrugged off the ghostly atmosphere as well as the bone-jarring 13 degrees to race into a 4-0 lead.
The Australian won just six points in that early blitz before she got on the board with a service hold in the fifth game.
But the 6ft (1.82m) Venezuelan-born Muguruza continued to dominate, sweeping the first set in 32 minutes.
There were was no let-up in the second set as the 22-year-old Spaniard broke for 1-0 and held a love service game to go to 2-0.
Stosur rallied for a break back, but Muguruza retrieved it immediately for 3-2 on the back of unrelenting, deep and flat hitting.
Muguruza, a quarter-finalist in the last two years, carved out a fifth break of the match for 5-2 after a sixth double-fault by Stosur on her way to sealing victory.
The world number one had few problems on the court, dismissing seventh seed Berdych 6-3 7-5 6-3 to reach his sixth successive semi-final at Roland Garros.
However, but for the quick reactions of a line judge, he might have found himself sensationally being defaulted.
After missing a break point early in the third set, Djokovic bounced his racket angrily on the ground and then looked round in horror as it flew towards a line judge.
The official dodged out of the way and the racket hit the back fence. Djokovic was full of apologies and knew things could have ended differently.
David Nalbandian was famously disqualified during the final at Queen’s Club in 2012 after kicking an advertising hoarding into a line judge’s shin.
Djokovic was testy when discussing the subject, saying: “It’s obvious what I tried to do. I threw a racket on the ground and it slipped and almost hit the line umpire. I was lucky there. That’s all.”
He will now face Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals as the Australian cemented his status as tennis’ coming man by beating David Goffin 4-6 7-6 (9/7) 6-4 6-1.
Only Djokovic has won more matches this year than the 22-year-old, who will break into the top 10 for the first time on Monday.
In the women’s tournament, Serena Williams survived a major scare to move to within two wins of tying Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 grand slam singles titles.
Williams headed into the quarter-finals as a huge favourite to successfully defend her title but was panicky throughout the first two sets against 60th-ranked Yulia Putintseva and was lucky to escape with a 5-7 6-4 6-1 victory.
In the last four, Williams will play another unseeded player in Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens, who continued her remarkable run by upsetting eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5 6-2.