Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro, French Open 2018

Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro, French Open 2018

Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro, French Open 2018

Nadal saved all six break points and converted one of his two own to pocket the first set.

The fifth seed, who stunned Roger Federer to win the 2009 US Open at the age of 20, said he never imagined that the likes of the 20-time Grand Slam champion and Nadal would still be standing in his path at major tournaments nearly a decade later.

Nadal, meanwhile, lost his first set at the French Open since 2015 but that blip did not stop him marching into the semi-finals with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman.

Del Potro has won two of his past three meetings with Nadal.

"It's a challenge that every player wants to have", he said.

"That", del Potro would say later, "was my chance". He required treatment on a hip problem suffered early in the first set and visibly wilted in the second, raising his arms in mock celebration when he won a solitary game while already 5-0 behind. As long as Thiem continues to serve at such a high level, he's going to give himself a fair chance at the biggest victory of his career.

"It was someone who made a loud [sound] before my serve, and I made [a] double fault", Del Potro said. The only loss this clay court season has been to Thiem in the quarter-final of the Madrid Masters though he holds a 6-3 head-to-head advantage over the Austrian. "I will try to do my best, to play my best tennis, and see if I can do a good match".

Dominic Thiem reached his first Grand Slam final and ended the surprising French Open run of 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato (cheh-key-NAH'-toe) of Italy.

"He is a nightmare opponent for Nadal", three-times French champion Wilander, hosting Eurosport's flagship Game, Schett and Mats programme at Roland Garros, told Reuters.

"I like to play against guys with a one-handed backhand".

Nadal will now play the victor of the quarter-final between Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro, who had split sets after the resumption of their match on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The helplessness of the victims whom Nadal had vanquished at Roland Garros this year was rendered by Del Potro in the penultimate game of the second set. He was also able to raise his level when in danger, saving three break points in the eighth game of the third set with great shot-making, and four more in the final set. I'm happy to play the final again at my favourite grand slam.

After dropping the first two sets he played in the opening round, Cecchinato came back to win that match in five sets, then proceeded to string together upsets.

Nadal won the pair's only previous two meetings at the French Open, including their semi-final clash past year, but Thiem is confident he can upset the world number one on Sunday.

"I think, and I didn't put not one bad face".

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.

A fourth set point for Thiem vanished because of one of Cecchinato's many drop shots.

After failing to convert four of his previous set point opportunities, he finally seized the fifth.

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