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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Electric expectation generated buzz for today's Dominic Thiem v. Alexander Zverev rematch.

The Dominator struck with buzz-kill conviction to defuse a depleted Zverev.

More: Toni Nadal Names Rafa's Top Challengers

Amid murky conditions, Thiem tamed a gimpy Zverev, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, rolling into his third straight Roland Garros semifinal.

Drained by three consecutive five-set marathons, Zverev seemed to strain his left hamstring in the third game. The 21-year-old German had his upper leg taped up, but couldn't stay in step with a fit and fierce Thiem.

"It was tough for him today, he’s one of the fittest guys on tour," Thiem said of his fellow adidas endorser and friend. "It’s tough to play three five-setters in a row. I hope that we have many more encounters against each other at this stage or even later in a Grand Slam."

A red-hot Thiem converted six of 12 break points scoring his ninth consecutive victory on French soil.

Empowered by his run to the Lyon title last month, Thiem has turned it up in Paris.

Thiem raised his record to 34-8—equaling Zverev for most wins on the season—setting up a semifinal showdown against either 2016 champion Novak Djokovic or 72nd-ranked Italian Marco Cecchinato. Thiem is the 13th man in the Open Era to reach the Roland Garros final four three years in a row.

Beneath a soupy sky, dampness created heavy conditions that favored the fresher Thiem.

Drained by winning three consecutive five-setters, Zverev knew he needed to shorten points against the Austrian's ballistic blasts. In a rematch of last month's Madrid final, which Zverev won 6-4, 6-4, both men tried to make statements at the start.

This duel between the ATP victory leaders pitted two guys who hit so hard if the ball was an emoji its face would be perpetual panic.

Zverev grabbed his left hamstring after straining it in the third game. After dropping the opening set, the 21-year-old German never really had a leg to stand on in extended rallies.

Because of the dreary conditions it was a scattered crowd at the start dotted with famous faces. Former champion Carlos Moya, scouting on behalf of Rafael Nadal, munched on lunch sitting a few seats behind fellow former No. 1 Marat Safin.

All-court improvisation arrived in the second game. Zverev pulled off a smooth tweener and tested Thiem with a drive down the line only to see the Austrian stretch for a slick drop volley as he held to level.

Punching throw a two-ace game, Zverev raised concern clutching at the back of his left hamstring in holding for 2-1.

The two-hander is Zverev's most stable shot, while his forehand is explosive it can be more erratic. Three forehand misakes put Zverev in a double break-point bind. Dipping a short-angled backhand winner, Thiem broke for 4-3.

Slashing an ace, Thiem backed up the break.

On his second set point, Thiem whipped his second ace, wrapping the 39-minute opener.

Playing on fresher legs, Thiem established a willingness to grind through longer exchanges and used the short, slow slice backhand to make the big man bend and test that possibly tight hamstring. Teasing Zverev with a series of short slices, Thiem drew an errant backhand breaking for a 2-1 second-set lead.

In a nose-to-nose net exchange, Thiem denied a break point putting a point-blank forehand past Zverev. Deploying the drop shot shrewdly, Thiem consolidated with a drop volley winner as Zverev again massaged the back of his leg.

When a weary Zverev flattened a backhand into net, dropping serve to fall behind 1-4, he trudged slowly to his court-side seat to take an injury time-out.

The trainer taped up the back of Zverev's left leg.

However, the damage was done.

Thiem served out the second set at love as Zverev departed the court.

Tuned into the rhythm of his circular swing and shrewdly moving shots corner to corner, Thiem charged out to a 4-0 lead in the third set. Zverev, who wasn't moving some some wide balls by then, stopped his slide holding for 1-4.

On his third match point, Thiem spread the court then flicked a backhand winner into the open court closing his third straight trip to the semifinals in one hour, 50 minutes.

The pair shared a warm embrace at net as Thiem scored his second French Open win over Zverev in the last three years, taking a 5-2 lead in their head-to-head series which figures to feature many more major showdowns. 


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