Nadal beats del Potro at French Open, eyes 11th title

French Open: Ruthless Rafael Nadal punishes Juan Martin del Potro in semi-final

Thiem went through one pivotal stretch against 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.

Nadal's latest triumph in Paris sees him join Margaret Court, who dominated the Australian Open in the 1960s and 70s, as the only player to win 11 singles titles at one grand slam. "It was a pain in the arse these three, four weeks, seriously", said Thiem after beating Italy's Marco Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6 (12/10), 6-1 on Friday to reach his first Grand Slam final.

The fifth seed, playing in his first Roland Garros semi-final in nine years, had three break points in the third game and three more in the ninth.However, the 29-year-old was unable to capitalise and Nadal made him pay in the 10th game when he claimed the opener off a netted backhand.

So if anyone could head into the French Open final with even the slightest reason to think there's a chance of preventing Nadal from winning a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros, it is his opponent Sunday.

The World No. 7 Thiem outclassed top seed Nadal earlier in Madrid Open in May this year and in the Italian Open last year.

Nadal is 85-2 for his French Open career, 110-2 in all best-of-fives on clay.

This will be the 10th tour-level encounter between Nadal and Thiem. Nadal saved that second trio of break points Friday, held there, then broke in the next game to grab that set.

"But I have a plan".

Surely, so did del Potro. If Thiem can not find the court enough with his attempted winners, then the match will swing in Nadal's favour.

True, he was obliterated by Nadal in the semi-final 12 months ago but Thiem has added more aggression to his natural claycourt weapons, specifically the forehand, as he displayed when stunning Nadal in the Madrid quarter-final. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert. After serving a fault, Nadal took the unusual step of heading to the sideline in the middle of a game. After guzzling water during that break, Nadal felt better and was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.

"I was not able to move the hand, the finger", Nadal said.

"If I want to beat him", Thiem said, "I have to play that way". Stephens won last year's US Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals.

"If Thiem can do that and build enough hope in the first hour, hour and a half, maybe get the first set he can make it physical like he did in Madrid".

Nadal, in an on-court interview, also said he's sure that runner-up Thiem will win the tournament in "the next couple of years". He then crushed a tired looking Zverev 6-4 6-2 6-1 before halting the fairy tale run of Cecchinato 7-6 7-6 6-1.

But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner.

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