Thiem books spot in French Open final

Posted June 09, 2018

"I think that was my chance of the match", del Potro said of the break points he held at 4-all in the opening set of Nadal's 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 blitz.

The fifth seed, who stunned Roger Federer to win the 2009 US Open at the age of 20, said he never imagined that the likes of the 20-time Grand Slam champion and Nadal would still be standing in his path at major tournaments nearly a decade later.

Thiem has yet to prove that he can stay with Nadal in a best-of-five-set match, losing in the second round of the French Open in 2014, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, and again in the French Open semi-finals previous year by the lopsided and deflating score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, after plenty of pre-match build-up.

Del Potro possesses that as well.

"Tomorrow I will try to play a match as I did in a different surface against Rafa", Del Potro told reporters.

Top seed Nadal, 32, trailed 6-4 3-5 when play was halted on Wednesday.

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Rafael Nadal celebrates a point against Juan Martin Del Potro in the French Open semifinals on June 8.

"Today in the first set, for example, I was not playing great, was suffering because he was playing better than me". That said, Thiem has already been at a high level for a long time and he'll be used to this situation. When that ultimately wasn't enough and he dropped the first set, Martin del Potro couldn't keep up for the rest of the match.

However, Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 6-3 with all of their encounters coming on clay. One of those victories came against Thiem in last year's semi-final and was, if anything, more comprehensive than this one.

They will play each other Friday, when the other men's semifinal is No. 7 Dominic Thiem of Austria against 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

Del Potro was in the semi-finals for the first time since he recovered from three years of injury problems that made him contemplate quitting the sport.

Although Nadal will once again be favored to win in the final, Thiem is arguably the toughest opponent for him.

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Brandon: Thiem has looked invincible throughout Roland Garros 2018 and looks likely to reach his first Grand Slam final as he takes on Cecchinato in the semis. "But I will not give (it to) him, '" Nadal said.

The best player can lose his cool on occasion, even if he's known as the "gentle giant".

This time, Thiem instead faced Cecchinato, a 25-year-old from Sicily who never had won a Grand Slam match until this tournament and was the lowest-ranked men's semifinalist at the clay-court major in 19 years.

Play resumed with the towering fifth and third seeds locked at 5-5 in the first set tiebreak and del Potro needed only two points to pocket the first set on Thursday. "I think if I'm facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure".

After struggling in his quarterfinal against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal is approaching his best form ahead of the final and hopes are high that the Spanish star will emerge victorious.

Also, while the players had the same amount of unforced errors with 26, Thiem was rewarded for his aggression as he prevailed in the winners battle 37-24.

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"That was definitely the key", Cecchinato said.