Dominic Thiem ensured there would be no big-three lock-out of another grand slam final, but the Austrian played down talk of a breakthrough moment for the next generation ahead of his Australian Open semi-final against Alexander Zverev.
Thiem stunned world number one Rafael Nadal on Wednesday night to reach the last four at a slam for the first time outside of Roland Garros.
The 26-year-old has made the final in Paris for the last two years only to fall to Nadal, and it was the same experience for young Russian Daniil Medvedev at the US Open.
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) January 29, 2020
Every current player who has won a grand slam is now aged over 30 and Thiem knows that, even if he beats 22-year-old Zverev, he will need to get past Novak Djokovic to lift his first grand slam trophy.
The fifth seed said: “To really break a barrier, one young player has to win a slam. One of us is going to be in the final. But it’s still a very long way to go.
“The other semi-final was still two of the big three. I think we are still a pretty long way from overtaking or from breaking this kind of barrier.”
THIEM's Time To 𝓢𝓱𝓲𝓷𝓮!
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2020
While Thiem is becoming fairly familiar with this stage, it will be a new experience for seventh seed Zverev, who has finally managed to free himself to play his game at a grand slam.
The Russian did not drop a set until his quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka and has found his game again after a difficult 2019 and start to this season.
Zverev has beaten all of the big three in best-of-three-set matches, and he said: “I did beat Stan, who is also a multiple grand slam champion, which gives me a little bit of confidence that I can do it.
“I’ve done well at other tournaments. I’ve won Masters Series, World Tour Finals. But the Grand Slams were always the week where I kind of even wanted it too much.
“I was doing things, in a way, too professional. I was not talking to anybody. I wasn’t going out with friends. I’ve changed that a little bit this week.
“I also was playing that bad at ATP Cup that I didn’t have any expectations. Maybe this is a stepping stone. Maybe this is how it should happen.”
Thiem and Zverev may be treading new ground in Melbourne but they are familiar rivals, with the Austrian having won six of their eight previous meetings.
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Thiem said: “We know each other. For me, it’s funny because it’s the first time in a grand slam semi-final I face a younger guy.
“We’re good friends. I’m happy for him, as well, that he’s playing so good here. He made his breakthrough at a grand slam.
“We have no secrets from each other. We played so many times, also on very special occasions already, at the ATP Finals, semis, French Open quarters.
“It’s a nice rivalry we have. It’s great that we add an Australian Open semi-finals to this one.”