Paris: Despite sending mighty serves crashing down from a great height, towering world No. 5 Alexander Zverev could offer only momentary resistance to Novak Djokovic in Paris as the top seed barged into the semi-finals of the French Open on Thursday in straight sets. The tall German had served for the opening set at 5-4 before Djokovic simply clicked it up a notch to steal that set 7-5 then romp through the next two 6-2, 6-2.
“He was serving very well, it was a big challenge for me to find the right returning position,” Djokovic said on court afterwards.
Thursday’s victory over Zverev was a 26th consecutive one in Grand Slam action, and it will take a mammoth effort to end that run.
The man tasked next with stopping him is Austrian Dominic Thiem who, at world No. 4, is ranked one place higher than Thursday’s victim.
Thiem was himself ruthless, dispatching Russian Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Familiar faces occupy the bottom half of the draw with Roger Federer due to face Rafael Nadal in the first semi-final.
Seventeen-year-old Amanda Anisimova announced herself as a future star by powering into the semi-finals with a stunning victory over defending champion Simona Halep although the tough world of professional tennis meant the locker room celebrations may have been a little subdued.
The world No. 51 will be the youngest player to contest a Grand Slam semi-final for 12 years on Friday against eighth seed Ashleigh Barty, after cruising past Halep 6-2, 6-4 in the biggest match of her career so far.
She is the youngest American to make the last four since Jennifer Capriati in 1990, but said she has not been suffering with nerves and even slept through most of Wednesday, when her quarter-final was delayed due to torrential rain.
“I just played the best tennis of my life. I don’t know how, and I don’t know how I did it, but it just happened,” said Anisimova.
“I was just, like, sleeping in the locker room (on Wednesday). I thought I wasn’t going to play, so I was just sleeping.
“Then I left, and I was in traffic a lot, because I wanted to get new shoes.
“Then I didn’t get them, and I was like, Wow, ‘that was a bad idea. Why am I exhausting myself right now?’”
Her unusual preparation had little effect on her performance against Romanian star Halep, as she booked a semi-final spot with surprising ease and is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
Already being compared to Maria Sharapova when she won Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004, as well as other teenage Grand Slam champions like Monica Seles and Martina Hingis, Anisimova is not fazed by the big occasion.
“If I didn’t look nervous it’s because I wasn’t,” she said of facing defending champion Halep on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Anisimova is the youngest American woman to reach the last four of a major since Venus Williams at the 1997 US Open, and said last week that 23-time Slam title winner Serena Williams had helped pick her up after a recent difficult defeat in Miami.
Anisimova is one of two teenagers in the last four — 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova faces Johanna Konta in the other semi-final — the first time that has happened in the French Open since Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters in 2001.
Williams said that she was more than happy to try and help the latest generation reach the top.
“I just needed to do that, and I know she’s super young. I really love all the new young players,” she said before being dumped out of Roland Garros in the third round by 20-year-old Sofia Kenin.
“It’s just so exciting. I feel like tennis has done so much for me, and to see a new generation come through is great.”