Rafael Nadal beats Del Petro in French Open

Marcus Newton
June 10, 2018

But this had nothing to do with winning or losing his French Open semifinal against Juan Martín del Potro, whom Nadal had just manhandled, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, to earn a spot in the final against Dominic Thiem.

Clay court supremo Nadal and 10-time French Open champion Nadal admitted to bout of nerves during his hard=fought quarter-final win over Argentinian underdog Diego Schwartzman.

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.

Thiem, who will be competing in his first Grand Slam final, beat Nadal at last year's Italian Open and won the pair's most recent meeting at the Madrid Open last month.

The seventh-seeded Austrian knows the enormity of the task at hand and seems to be making sure he puts in his best against the King of Clay, who has a 10-0 record in Roland Garros finals. For me it's incredible.

"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.

"Make him go "goodness, oh goodness, this might not happen for me today".

"I think that was my chance of the match", Del Potro said of the ninth game.

Austrian Dominic Thiem faces arguably the biggest challenge in sport, overcoming Rafael Nadal on the Court Philippe Chatrier clay, if he is to join the Grand Slam winners' club on Sunday.

In order to get a shot to defeat Nadal on clay, Thiem had to first get past an improbable semifinalist, No. 72 Marco Cecchinato, which no one else had managed to do at this edition of Roland Garros. Thiem had five set points, three of which he squandered very early, while Cecchinato had three of his own. However, here previous year in the semi-finals, Nadal destroyed Thiem, losing just seven games in a rout, but it is worth mentioning that Thiem triumphed in their last meeting in Madrid last month, in the quarter-finals. "Still, I know how to play against him".

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"Not a very nice feeling", Thiem said.

In avoiding the Serb in the semi-finals and avoiding a fully fit Alexander Zverev in the last-eight, Thiem has dodged a potentially nightmarish run.

Thiem is clearly a live underdog in this match based on the amount of experience he has against Nadal on clay and the fact he's won 33.3 percent of those matches on a surface nearly nobody beats him on.

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

The Argentine won the first two points to round off the first set and outlasted his Croatian opposite in lengthy rallies to win in three hours and 50 minutes.

That the pair have only ever met on clay is remarkable, and few players have had as much success against Nadal on that surface, even if the Spaniard has the superior head-to-head record. "I'm so happy to be in the final again", said Nadal afterward.

That's only €100,000 more - just a 4.5 per cent rise - than last year's champions Rafael Nadal and Jelena Ostapenko collected.

Cecchinato's career has been tainted by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal; he was banned for 18 months in 2016 before having the suspension overturned.

Thiem had to weather three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9. Last year, he took the trophy without dropping a set.

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