What change the surface could make! At the end of the last season, Karen Khachanov defeated Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 in the semi-final at Paris Masters 1000 event en route to his biggest title in a career, hoping for more of the same on the Parisian clay in the quarter-final at Roland Garros.
The last year's finalist Thiem had some other plans, though, defeating the newly-promoted top-10 player 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 47 minutes to advance into the fourth straight Roland Garros semi-final as the tenth player in the Open era who achieved that.
Thiem had to work hard in the first three rounds against Tommy Paul, Alexander Bublik and Pablo Cuevas, raising the level to leave Gael Monfils far behind and securing another commanding triumph today to enter the last four where he will face Novak Djokovic on Friday.
It was a superb performance from the Austrian who lost 19 points on serve, firing 29 winners and 12 unforced errors and leaving Karen on almost 40 mistakes, unable to penetrate the more superior clay courter and impose his shots.
Never facing a break point in the entire match, Thiem had all the freedom in this world to attack the rival's serve, taking 45% of the return points and ensuring five breaks from eight chances to control the scoreboard all the time and stay in contention for the first Grand Slam title.
With his strokes finding the desired targets right from the start, Dominic sailed through service games in the opener and forged the lead when Khachanov sprayed a forehand error in game three. The Russian hit another loose forehand to suffer a break in game seven, sending Dominic 5-2 up and losing the set following a brilliant forehand crosscourt winner from the Austrian in game eight.
The second set offered more exciting scoreboard and no breaks in the first eight games. Returning at 4-4, Thiem landed a backhand down the line that Khachanov couldn't control, moving 5-4 in front and clinching the set with a service winner in game ten, hoping for more of the same in set number three.
There, Karen had nothing more left in the tank, getting broken in games five and seven before Dominic raced over the finish line with another service winner at 5-2 to wrap up a perfect day at the office and get ready for Friday's clash against Novak Djokovic.