Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sports | By Juana Wells

Thiem advances to first final, to face Nadal

Thiem advances to first final, to face Nadal

"It was a tough first set with opportunities for Juan Martin, I am fortunate that I won the first set and then I played more aggressively", Nadal, who equals Roger Federer's feat of reaching the final of a single Slam 11 times, said on court as fans chanted "Viva Espana". Best of five is also a different story. Their previous match up saw the Spaniard beat del Potro in straight sets in the opening round in 2007.

This was the No. 5-seeded del Potro's first semifinal at Roland Garros since 2009.

"Well, it's tough to speak", the 29-year-old, who has risen back to sixth in the rankings after battling back from three left wrist surgeries, said on court as fans sang "Delpo, Delpo". 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.

Nadal has not lost at Roland Garros when taking the first set and that record did not look like coming under threat as he continually rebuffed Thiem's attempts to make inroads into his serve, taking the second courtesy of an early break. I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances.

Nadal is 85-2 for his French Open career, 110-2 in all best-of-fives on clay. Both players dropped serve four times.

This included a quarter-final success in Madrid last month.

Juan Martin Del Potro called the tournament doctor early in his French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal.

It was the first time in three years that Nadal had dropped a set in Paris.

Thiem went for the jugular in the third set and after racing to a 4-0 lead in double quick, he finished off the job to reach his first Grand Slam final. Because being No. 1 without a Grand Slam, I always said, is not like everything, not 100 percent.

Thiem was one of Nadal's victims during his 2017 French Open campaign, where the Austrian lost 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.

But they face stiff competition in the final against Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Thiem had to weather three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9.

It was the Austrian's third consecutive appearance in the semifinals at Roland Garros. Nadal has won six of those, two in finals in straight sets, and in both of their matches here, in the second round in 2014 and the semi-finals a year ago.

The 25-year-old was banned for match-fixing in 2016, a penalty overturned on appeal. It is also worth noticing that even two of the greatest Hard Court players of all-time have not been able to dominate the surface as much as Nadal and Borg have dominated Clay.

Yet Thiem's recovery was exceptional, moving out of sight with a ruthless second break and a confident hold to wrap up the opener.

40 - Halep became the first woman from Romania to claim a Grand Slam title since her current manager, Virginia Ruzici, won the French Open 40 years ago.

The boys' final at the French Open will pit top-seeded Sebastien Baez of Argentina against Chun Hsin Tseng from Taiwan.

Later Friday, Nadal looks to take another step closer to an 11th French Open title and 17th at the majors.

However, having squandered one set point, he went in for a simple backhand volley victor only to dump it into the net. "Therefore, Thiem in four". And of course, with it being on clay, Nadal is an overwhelming favorite.

And on the penultimate point of the semifinal, after being run ragged, the 2009 US Open victor could only offer up a smile.

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