If anyone can take down Rafa at Roland Garros, it's Dominic Thiem

by Leon Thompson June 9, 2018, 20:33
If anyone can take down Rafa at Roland Garros, it's Dominic Thiem

"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible", said Nadal after breezing past Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in Friday's semi-finals in what was his 85th win in Paris against just two defeats. Nadal saved all six break points and converted one of his two own to pocket the first set.

Returning to Court Philippe Chatrier Thursday, Nadal quickly polished off the second set, and with it, effectively, Schwartzman's challenge.

Rafael Nadal will be looking to avoid another slow start when he takes on Dominic Thiem in the Roland Garros final on Sunday, with the Spaniard's coach Carlos Moya assuring that they expect a tougher version of the opponent they faced in last year's semi-finals here in Paris. So I have nothing to lose tomorrow.

Every stat pointed toward Nadal being the superior player on Friday, though, especially on serve. "I am a little bit fortunate to win the first set". That said, Thiem has already been at a high level for a long time and he'll be used to this situation.

"It was someone who made a loud [sound] before my serve, and I made [a] double fault", Del Potro said.

However, Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 6-3 with all of their encounters coming on clay.

'As you suffer, when you have bad moments, for example, in Acapulco when I was stuck and couldn't play in Miami, as well, these are hard moments. The last time Del Potro contended a Grand Slam final, he won it at the 2009 US Open.

Thiem earlier beat Marco Cecchinato - also in straight sets - to reach his first grand slam final. "When you're in a final like Roland Garros, it's a great happiness". However, I said that I'd be shocked if Cecchinato defeated Djokovic, and he managed that feat, so the Italian clay-courter can not be completely written off in advance.

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Rafael Nadal admits that his desire to clinch an 11th French Open title on Sunday is fired by his growing realisation that the end of his career may not be too far away.

Nadal has never failed to win the title when reaching the last four at Roland Garros, but knows that Del Potro, who he has lost to five times, is a risky opponent.

"I think the big key was the second set because it was a close tie-break", said the 24-year-old. "Still, I know how to play against him".

"Sometimes he gets fired up but has this calm about him that I think worries Nadal and Federer".

In 2016, Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality. We expect a better Thiem for sure than the one we met previous year.

Cecchinato's bid to become the spoiler's spoiler ended, for all intents and purposes, when he was unable to convert any of three set points in an entertaining second-set tiebreaker that was the middle chapter of Thiem's 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 win.

Nevertheless Cecchinato can look back on a breakthrough tournament - he had never won a match at a grand slam before beating Marius Copil 10-8 in the fifth set last week.

"Once he gets ahead in the match, his confidence gets back", said Moya, the 1998 French Open champion.

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