Nadal through to face Thiem in French Open final

Published by AAP

Rafael Nadal now has an 85-2 record at Roland Garros; Getty Images
Ten-time champion Rafael Nadal beats Juan Martin del Potro and Dominic Thiem defeats Marco Cecchinato in the French Open semifinals.

Rafael Nadal will compete for an 11th French Open title after he cruised to a 6-4 6-1 6-2 triumph against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals in Paris.

The 10-time champion, who has only been beaten twice at at Roland Garros in his entire career, was in full control as Del Potro wilted under the relentless pressure of his whipping trademark forehand.

Spain’s Nadal will meet Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s showpiece as the Austrian earned a place in his maiden Grand Slam final with a 7-5 7-6(10) 6-1 victory over Italy’s Marco Cecchinato.

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“I feel lucky that I am back in the final after so many years, I’m so lucky that I enjoy what I do and to be in the finals here since 2005,” Nadal said after his win. “It’s very special.”

Nadal has tasted French Open defeat only twice in his career and will be strong favourite to claim the title.

However, Thiem is the only man to have beaten him on clay this season – in a Madrid quarter-final – and also triumphed in a Rome meeting last year.

“You have to face the challenge, and you have to be ready to fight for it and to face the adversity and whatever may happen during the match but these are things that I will think about tomorrow.

“Today is a day to rejoice. When you’re in a final like Roland Garros, it’s a great happiness.

“He’s an amazing player, and he has a lot of confidence after winning a tournament before coming here. He beat me in Madrid, so I know I have to play my best.

“I did a lot of things well in the claycourt season and I will do my best to prepare for the final on Sunday.”

Del Potro pulled up with a hip complaint as he trailed 2-1 in the first set, but despite clear discomfort he managed to fashion seven break points, only for Nadal to save them all on his way to victory in two hours and 14 minutes.

Seventh seed Thiem, 24, resisted fightbacks from world No.72 Cecchinato in the opening two sets. He saved three set points in the second before winning an epic tiebreak, something which Cecchinato has become famous for this year at Roland Garros.

“The big key was the second set; it was a close tiebreak and if I lost it, I didn’t want that because it would be a tough match,” said Thiem.

“It’s a very nice feeling to come through that and make the final here for the first time.”

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