Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Rafael Nadal ready for 'tough final' against Dominic Thiem on Sunday

Rafa Nadal is a set down Rafa Nadal is a set down
Cassandra Gardner | 13 June, 2018, 02:04

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal saw off Argentina's Diego Schwartzman in a rain-postponed men's singles quarterfinals and will next face fifth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro at the 2018 French Open on Thursday.

Only two players have managed to beat him so far at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament - Robin Soldering in the fourth round of the 2009 edition and Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final of 2015 edition.

However, Nadal has won both their clashes at Roland Garros - in 2014 and in last year's semi-finals by a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 margin.

By contrast, Thiem was competing in his maiden major final and although he matched his illustrious opponent for large parts of the opening set, he crumbled at the crunch and never really regained his poise. So there was mild concern when Nadal called for the trainer midway through a game, requiring treatment on what looked like cramp in his hand.

"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.

"Because if you stay behind the baseline against Dominic, he can take advantage of it", Toni Nadal said.

The Spaniard will now face seventh seed Dominic Thiem of Croatia after he earlier defeated Marco Cecchinato of Italy 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 in their men's singles semi-final match.

Nadal is 85-2 for his French Open career, 110-2 in all best-of-fives on clay. The Austrian won just one of the first nine points as Nadal immediately broke for 2-0.

The quarter-final tie was suspended on Wednesday with Nadal leading the second set 5-3.

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The 10-time champion was much-improved under the sunshine on Court Philippe Chatrier after finding life hard the night before, clinching a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over dogged Argentinian Schwartzman on his fourth match point.

Thiem has been to the semifinals in Paris three years in a row. He took the biggest of big cuts on groundstrokes, his feet leaving the ground as he threw his whole body into them, as if the very outcome - not of any individual point, but the whole shebang - depended on the strength of that one whip of his white racket.

It rarely is for Nadal at a place he has lorded over the way no other man ever has at any Grand Slam tournament.

What went through Nadal's mind right then?

"You can win a set, but not a match against Rafa", said Del Potro keen not to over-egg any hint of weakness in Nadal's game. "Today was unbelievable for me, with all of Philippe-Chatrier Court full".

The 16th-seeded Gauff, who is 14 years old, beat 15th-seeded Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada 6-4, 6-3.

Nadal can become just the second male player in the Open era to reach 11 finals at the same Grand Slam tournament, equaling Roger Federer's record at Wimbledon. At No. 72, he is the lowest-ranked French Open semifinalist since 1999.

Del Potro, the US Open victor in 2009, is playing the tournament for only the second time since 2012 after a spate of injuries.

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