Champ Djokovic down and out

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic when he faced Austria’s Dominic Thiem yesterday. [AP]

Novak Djokovic’s French Open title defence ended with a surprisingly lopsided 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-0 quarter-final loss to sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria yesterday.

A year ago, Djokovic became the first man in nearly a half-century to claim a fourth consecutive major championship and completed a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

But his form has dipped considerably since then, and now he has gone four majors in a row without earning a trophy.

“It’s a fact that I’m not playing close to my best,” Djokovic said. “This is a whole new situation that I’m feeling.”

At a windy Court Suzanne Lenglen yesterday, Djokovic was out of sorts in so many ways, even before that 20-minute third set in which he won only 8 of 34 points.

That was only the second time that Djokovic lost a final set by the score of 6-0 in his 937 career tour-level matches.

“It was not there for me today,” Djokovic said with a sigh.

He wasted two set points in the opener. By the end of the match, he wound up with nearly twice as many unforced errors, 35, as winners, 18. His backhand was particularly problematic.

Known for tremendous footwork and court coverage, the No. 2-seeded Serb even stumbled and tumbled to the court, his racket flying out of his hands, early in the second set.

Djokovic was left on his knees, and soon he would be out of the tournament entirely.

“All in all,” Djokovic said, “it was decided, I think, in the first set.”

How unlikely was this result? Djokovic entered the day having won all five previous matches — and 11 of 12 sets — against Thiem, including in the French Open semi-finals a year ago.

“It’s amazing for me,” Thiem said.

Earlier yesterday, Rafael Nadal reached his record 10th French Open semi-final when No. 20 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain retired from their match early in the second set because of an injured abdominal muscle he said began bothering him on a serve at 5-2 in the first.

Nadal led 6-2, 2-0 when Carreno Busta stopped.

Nadal has dropped only 22 games so far in the tournament, the fewest he has lost on the way to any of his 26 Grand Slam semi-final berths.

“I don’t know how many games I lost this year, but I really don’t care about this, no?” Nadal said.

“I only care that I am in the semi-finals.”

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