Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Nadal advances to 11th French Open final, will face Thiem for title

Nadal advances to 11th French Open final, will face Thiem for title

Thiem is the only man to defeat 10-time French Open champion Nadal on clay this season.

Ruthless Rafael Nadal punished Argentine Juan del Potro for missed opportunities as he reached his 11th French Open final with a 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory on Friday.

One big difference in this meeting is that those two matches that went Thiem's way were best-of-three-set events. "When I coached Rafael, it looked like a coach, but I was more an uncle".

Nadal is closing in on his record-extending 11th title at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament and what would be his 17th major trophy in all.

As for Thiem, the 24-year-old is in his first Grand Slam final. "The advantage, of course, is you play (with) nothing to lose", said Kuerten, who went on to become the world number one. So there was mild concern when Nadal called for the trainer midway through a game, requiring treatment on what looked like cramp in his hand.

But Thiem‚ 24‚ was too strong and now believes he has a particularly powerful weapon on his side for the final - breakfast.

The No. 7-seeded Thiem beat Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 in the semifinals Friday.

The former US Open champion, who nearly retired from the sport two years ago after persistent wrist injuries, had said he would make a "last-minute decision" on his Roland Garros participation after suffering a leg injury at the Rome Masters.

Nadal broke Thiem in his first service game to give the 10-time champion an early 2-0 lead in the first set.

However, the 25-year-old failed to take the three sets points he fashioned and was brutally punished after going two sets down, with two breaks for Thiem allowing him to secure the third set in just 28 minutes.

Del Potro often had Nadal in trouble in a ferocious first set but paid heavily for failing to convert any of the six break points that came his way.

Ominously for Thiem, Nadal said: "My feeling is I have a very hard match against a player that is playing great". He beat me this year in Madrid with big power. I know I have to play my best tennis to have a chance on Sunday. Because being No. 1 without a Grand Slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 percent.

The tournament is unlikely to make up much ground on its rival Slams in the coming years as its organisers, the French Tennis Federation (FFT), focus on financing a modernisation project which includes a new centre court with a retractable roof. He is 110-2 in all best-of-five matches on red clay.

"But I have a plan".

Since they exchanged breaks of serve in the second and third games, both have held serve, with Nadal now ahead 5-4, with Thiem serving next. In Wimbledon I lost against (Novak) Djokovic.

"That was definitely the key", Cecchinato said. "He beat really good players". When he first halted play, Nadal removed that tape, which he said let his circulation improve. I played two sets at the same level (as Djokovic) against Thiem.

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