Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Thiem ends Cecchinato fairytale to reach French Open final

Thiem ends Cecchinato fairytale to reach French Open final

Del Potro had forced six break points during the first set but Nadal fended each one off.

Play has resumed in the rain-interrupted men's quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and 10-time champion Rafael Nadal quickly grabbed the second set of his match against Diego Schwartzman. After he held there, that was pretty much that for del Potro.

As confident as he is, Thiem is well aware that it will take a huge effort if he is to join Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic as the only men to have beaten Nadal at Roland Garros.

Cecchinato brilliantly saved two break points at 2-2 in the second and continued to hold his own to reach a tie-break, where a series of sensational winners from both players saw Thiem let three successive set points slip.

Top-ranked Simona Halep has rallied past Angelique Kerber 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 to reach the French Open semifinals.

That Rafael Nadal would reach a record 11th French Open semifinal, closing in on his 11th championship at Roland Garros, was hardly surprising.

But this year's final is already different from any of Nadal's previous 10 in Paris or any of his 13 other Grand Slam finals.

He beat the Spaniard in the Madrid quarter-finals this year having won in the Rome last-eight in 2017. "I have a plan", a confident Thiem, who dispatched surprise package Marco Cecchinato 7-5 7-6 (10) 6-1 in the semi-finals on Friday, told reporters.

The Argentinian took the second of them and served out for a 7-6 (7/5) 5-7 6-3 7-5 victory in just under four hours. That crucial early juncture altered the course of things, though. "If Nadal gives him opportunities, he should be confident enough to go for the kill", Becker pointed out. He played Juan Martin del Porto and defeated him 6-4,6-1,6-2. If he wins the game, OK.

He appeared to be in near peak form against del Potro - once the all important first set went in his favor. He missed the tournament every year from 2013-16 because of injuries, including three operations on his left wrist. In the fourth game Friday, del Potro clutched at his left hip after being wrong-footed by one shot from Nadal and was visited by a doctor at the next changeover.

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"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible".

They tried their best to rouse their man in the third set but it was mission impossible as Nadal, clubbing the ball as if his life depended on it, churned out winners. It was Nadal's 60th win in a row on clay.

Can Thiem take at least two sets from Nadal on Sunday, and in the process, offer up Nadal's first challenge on a big stage in months?

"The big key was the second set, it was a close tiebreak and if I lost it, I didn't want that because it would be a tough match", said Thiem.

- World number one Halep, the runner-up in 2014 and 2017, survived a first round scare to defeat America's Alison Riske but has been in cruise control ever since, happily going under the radar to make the quarter-finals.

The Spaniard has never lost a final at Roland Garros with his win-loss record on Parisian Clay being 85-2.

Del Potro said the Austrian, the only player to beat Nadal on clay over the past two seasons, has a chance - albeit a slim one.

"Not a very nice feeling", Thiem said.

Nadal acknowledged that Thiem has been a "very complex" opponent.

Thiem battled to a 7-5 7-6 and then walloped a clearly dejected Cecchinato 6-1 in the third to qualify for the final after making the semi-final on three consecutive occasions.

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