Rafael Nadal's exit at the hands of Dominic Thiem has caused a stir in the men's draw. Charles Perrin has the details...
"Thiem is knocking on the door and it is likely to open sooner rather than later for him."
There were some shockwaves sent through the men's draw at the Australian Open after Dominic Thiem failed to read the script and upset Rafael Nadal in four sets in their quarter-final tie. His reward on Friday will be a semi-final clash with Alexander Zverev who reached the last four courtesy of a four-set victory over Stan Wawrinka.
While Nadal's chance to equal Federer's haul of 20 Slam titles will have to wait, there is still plenty to look forward to before the final on Sunday.
1.422/5 Nadal shocked by Thiem
The 33-year-old world number one had previously never lost to Thiem over five sets before. While he showed the mentality of a true champion to pull himself off the ropes at two sets to love down as well as forcing the fourth set to a tie-break, he was out-muscled by Thiem.
The Austrian dominated the baseline exchanges with his ferocious backhand and he amassed 65 winners. The two-time French Open finalist had a slight wobble in the fourth set while trying to serve for the match before the tiebreak, but he had some luck along the way via a couple of net chords. However, fortune favours the brave as the saying goes and Thiem never let Nadal settle for a moment.
Prior to the match, Nadal was a strong 1.422/5 favourite on the Exchange to progress to the semi-final, but perhaps this could be the time for Thiem to deliver? Thiem is now the second favourite at 6.05/1 to win the Australian Open. Having already experienced two Grand Slam finals, Thiem is knocking on the door and it is likely to open sooner rather than later for him.
Another miracle in Melbourne for Federer?
Federer has pulled off some great escapes so far in the tournament against perceived easier opposition in the form of John Millman and Tennys Sandgren. Against Sandgren, he somehow saved seven match points before prevailing in five sets. The Swiss legend - who is a six-times champion in Melbourne - hasn't been his usual clinical self and against Sandgren, he converted a meagre 15% of his break point opportunities. Although his greatness is undeniable, he has seen this odds drift and he is now an outsider at 15.50 to triumph.
For Federer, a 50th meeting with Novak Djokovic is laden with danger. The Serbian - who is 26-23 ahead in their head-to-head record - is almost impenetrable from the baseline and while Federer has pulled off some miracles so far, Djokovic will want to add an eighth Australian Open title to his cabinet. The 32-year-old - who is the favourite to win the tournament at 1.412/5 - was untroubled against Milos Raonic in the quarter-finals as he made just 14 unforced errors. Therefore, Federer can't afford to throw up any freebies if he is to progress.
Zverev point to prove
Deemed as the player with huge potential and most likely to dismantle the 'Big Three', things haven't quite worked out for Zverev in the way he would have liked. Although he has delivered Masters 1000 titles and is a former champion of the ATP World Tour Finals, he has faltered at the majors. The 22-year-old will therefore be desperate to prove he can compete with the best and make the breakthrough.
In facing Thiem, he will be experiencing his first taste of a Grand Slam semi-final so he finds himself in unfamiliar territory. Earlier this month, Zverev had the serving yips as he lost his three singles rubbers at the ATP Cup. However, he has improved markedly over the past fortnight in Melbourne and in his quarter-final win over Wawrinka, he has tightened up in that area as he only made one double fault.
Zverev is priced at 15.0014/1 to lift the Australian Open title and he has pledged to donate his entire prize winnings to the bushfire relief if he goes all the way. But Thiem with his impressive stamina and blistering groundstrokes will provide a stern test and one that Zverev could flunk.