Germany’s Alexander Zverev celebrates winning his fourth round match on June 3 (Michel Euler)
Germany’s Alexander Zverev celebrates winning his fourth round match on June 3 (Michel Euler)|Associated Press

Tennis Wednesday - Abrams on French Open Men’s Quarterfinals, Thiem v Khachanov, Zverev v Djokovic

Neal Abrams

Neal Abrams


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Men’s Quarterfinals

Dominic Thiem over Karen Khachanov
Dominic Thiem has been on a run here in Paris. Last year he got to the finals before losing to Rafa, and the two years prior to that he has gotten to the semis. He has commonly been referred to as the second-best clay court player (after Nadal) and considering that Nole is a pretty good clay court player himself, it is quite a compliment, and one that I believe is accurate. I think Thiem will win this match, but this one will be an all out nuclear war. Karen Khachanov, the 6-foot-6 Russian, is an absolutely phenomenal player when he is playing well, but often he resembles a Disney cartoon when not playing at his best. He chooses to throw in the towel too often when not “on”, and doesn’t seem to try to rely on his ability to compete. Yet, when playing well, he’s a joy to watch: he hits every shot almost perfectly, his tactics are brilliant, and his competitiveness is top-rate. If he could simply harness that will to win, he would be a Top 10 player. Oops! He already is!!! But will we see the competitive Khachanov in this match? I think we will. But I question whether the Russian will be able to hold it together for a full five sets. So far in Paris he’s been able to play, compete, and enjoy the experience all together, but I don’t think he’ll be that resolute to beat Thiem. I’m going with the Austrian, but put on your helmets and dig your ditch, because these two are going to lob bombs at each other for four-plus hours.

Sascha Zverev over Novak Djokovic
Last November Zverev beat Djokovic in the ATP Finals to win the year-end ATP championship. So we know that Sascha can beat Nole. The question is, will he again, and if he does, will it be here and now? I say “yes”, and resoundingly so! Zverev has the game and the physical gifts to be No. 1 in the game. I don’t think he’s ready to assume that throne just yet, because he’s still learning how to win consistantly. But I think he’s ready to take another step up the ladder and knock out the top player in the world here on the red clay in Paris. And possibly more than that, I think the men’s game needs a new personality with the game of a God to become a media darling. Zverev is that guy. He’ll do every thing physical necessary to win, and he’ll be earnest to boot when he sees the big prize ahead, and he’ll show us all with this match.

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