Nadal to face Thiem for French Open ti­tle

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Leisure -

TEN-TIME cham­pion Rafael Nadal reached his 11th French Open fi­nal yes­ter­day when he de­mol­ished Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets, set­ting up a ti­tle show­down with Do­minic Thiem, the only man to de­feat him on clay in the last two years.

Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam cham­pion, claimed his 85th win in Paris against just two losses af­ter weath­er­ing a big-hit­ting open­ing from 2009 US Open win­ner Del Potro to win 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

In his 24th Grand Slam fi­nal, Nadal will face Thiem who ended Marco Cecchi­nato’s French Open fairy­tale, reach­ing his first ma­jor fi­nal with a 7-5, 7-6 (12/10), 6-1 vic­tory.

Sev­enth seed Thiem is the first Aus­trian to make a fi­nal at the ma­jors since Thomas Muster was cham­pion in Paris in 1995.

“It was a very dif­fi­cult first set and Juan Martin had lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties. He was a lit­tle un­for­tu­nate,” said Nadal who reeled off 14 of the last 17 games, hav­ing seen Del Potro fail to con­vert any of his seven break points.

Nadal is now just the sec­ond man to reach 11 fi­nals at the same Slam, equalling Roger Fed­erer’s mark at Wim­ble­don.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble with­out hard work and go­ing through tough mo­ments.

“You have to be fo­cused and keep your pas­sion for the game. I never dreamed in 2005 when I played my first fi­nal here that I would be in an­other one.”

Thiem is the only man to beat Nadal on clay in the last two sea­sons — in Madrid this year and Rome in 2017.

But the Spa­niard was im­pres­sive yes­ter­day, fin­ish­ing with 35 win­ners and 19 un­forced er­rors to Del Potro’s anal­y­sis of 20 and 32.

“Thiem is an amaz­ing player. He beat me in Madrid, he has big power so I have to be at my best and im­prove,” said Nadal. “But I be­lieve I will be ready for the fi­nal.” World No 1 Nadal went into Fri­day’s clash with a 9-5 ca­reer record against Del Potro, in­clud­ing all three meet­ings on clay.

How­ever, it was Del Potro who was in the as­cen­dancy in the ral­lies in the first set.

The fifth seed, play­ing in his first Roland Gar­ros semi­fi­nal 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.

Del Potro had re­quired the doc­tor early in the first set af­ter ap­pear­ing to jar his an­kle in the red clay.

He suf­fered a wor­ry­ing power cut in the sec­ond set, slip­ping to 5-0 down on a dou­ble break, wast­ing his sev­enth break point out of seven on the way.

Nadal tight­ened his grip, go­ing to 5-1 on an­other dou­ble break in the third set and sealed the match when Del Potro hit a back­hand long.

World 72 Cecchi­nato had knocked out three seeded play­ers to reach the semi­fi­nals, in­clud­ing 12-time ma­jor win­ner No­vak Djokovic in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

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

“I need to re­gen­er­ate and have a good break­fast to keep up my good level. “Full power on Sun­day (to­mor­row).” Thiem, who was play­ing in his third suc­ces­sive French Open semi­fi­nal, ad­mit­ted the sec­ond set had been a nervy en­counter af­ter need­ing five set points to get through it. “The big key was the sec­ond set,” he said. “It was a re­ally close tiebreak and I didn’t want that es­pe­cially af­ter I missed an easy vol­ley at 6/4. “That was not a nice feel­ing.” 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 quar­ter­fi­nals.

“To­day, all day, on Philippe Cha­trier, the fans said ‘Forza, Marco’, so I think this is the best mo­ment for me,” said Cecchi­nato.

“Against Do­minic Thiem, he is top 10, and to­day all the peo­ple were for me.” — Su­perS­port

Rafael Nadal

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