Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sports | By Ivan Ross

Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

Rafael Nadal into French Open finals against Dominic Thiem

Their first meeting came four years ago at Roland Garros on the very court they are set to contest the final, with Nadal beating an untested Thiem 6-2 6-2 6-3 in the second round.

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.

His ideal sliding and fine single-handed backhand make him a fearsome player on clay and Cecchinato believes he has what it takes to continue his climb up the rankings.

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 semi-finalist at the clay-court major in 19 years.

"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened previous year, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters.

His semi-final win over Juan Martin del Potro meant Nadal equalled great rival Roger Federer in reaching 11 finals at a single grand slam, the Swiss having won eight Wimbledon titles and been runner-up three times. For Nadal it would be title number eleven in Paris and a seventeenth Major overall, for Thiem it is a first final at a Slam.

Well drilled as ever, Nadal looked relaxed as he a huge crowd swarmed to Court 4 to see him practice on a glorious Saturday afternoon in Paris.

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Rafael Nadal bids for his record-extending 11th French Open championship when he faces Dominic Thiem in the final.

The Spaniard continued his extraordinary domination at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.

"I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances", said Nadal, who needs to win Sunday to hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

"I am very happy to be back in the final here at Roland Garros".

"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".

"I have lost a lot of opportunities through injuries, and I know the years are going quick".

Nadal raced away with 14 of the last 17 games. "He beat me in Madrid, he has big power so I have to be at my best and improve", said Nadal.

Thiem for a change? Or same old Nadal script?
Yet Thiem's recovery was exceptional, moving out of sight with a ruthless second break and a confident hold to wrap up the opener. Earlier, Thiem needed to survive a nasty bout of the jitters to see off Marco Cecchinato and reach his first Grand Slam final.

Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again.

But Thiem showed resilience in getting two break points on Nadal's serve.

He hit a forehand long for 0-30 and then hit another forehand into the net to gift Nadal three set points. "So there is not 10 more chances to keep playing here".

Siniakova was the doubles runner-up at last year's U.S. Open with a different partner.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.

But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32."Thiem is an incredible player".

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