Nadal beats del Potro to reach 11th French final

Elena Summers
June 13, 2018

"You know when you start the clay-court season that Dominic, he's one of these players that have the chance to win every tournament that he's playing", Nadal said, "and maybe even (more so) here in Roland Garros, because he's strong physically".

Del Potro's play this tournament, plus his history against Nadal - the fifth seed won two of their three previous duels and was the last foe to down the Mallorcan in a grand slam semifinal in 2009 - suggested a close tilt.

The No. 7-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, is appearing in his first Grand Slam final.

Cecchinato had never won a Grand Slam match before this year's Roland Garros but made the semis with a string of stunning wins.He put out seeded players Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin before the seismic shock of knocking out 2016 champion Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Nadal is 6-3 all-time against Thiem, but the Austrian has beaten the Spaniard twice on clay in the last 13 months: Once at Rome in 2017 and again in Madrid earlier this season, with the latter ending a 21-match and 50-set win streak on clay for Nadal.

Once Nadal stole the opener with a break in the 10th game, it was one-way traffic as he left Del Potro trailing in a cloud of Parisian clay dust to set up a final against Dominic Thiem.

"I think it helps, definitely, knowing that you were the last guy to beat him", said Bresnik, whose association with Thiem spans more than 15 years.

That began a run of four consecutive French Open triumphs through 2008.

The Sicilian journeyman usually earns a living by playing in second-tier tournaments, but over the past two weeks, the world number 72 looked like he belonged on the big stage.

Del Potro insisted his hip had not troubled him during the match, instead putting the defeat down to one simple fact: "His game is too good for me".

France Tennis French Open
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro reacts after booking his place in the semi-finals

Easing through the third set, Thiem became only the second Austrian player to reach the final of Ronald Garros, following in the footsteps of Thomas Muster, who won the title in 1995.

"But I believe I will be ready for the final".

Had Cecchinato not tightened in the second set, when he held three set points, it might have been a different result.

He added: "For me, the level is very good at the moment". Nadal saved that second trio of break points Friday, held there, then broke in the next game to grab that set.

Nadal has a 9-5 head-to-head record against del Potro. "I know I have to improve a little bit".

"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said. Thiem beat Marco Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6, 6-1 in his semifinal matchup.

" If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that".

In Madrid, Thiem said the key was to be positive against Nadal.

"The first set was very hard, there were lots of opportunities for Juan Martin del Potro and I was perhaps a little lucky to win it", Nadal said afterwards.

However, having squandered one set point, he went in for a simple backhand volley victor only to dump it into the net.


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