Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Ruthless Rafael Nadal crushes Del Potro to reach final

Ruthless Rafael Nadal crushes Del Potro to reach final

That Rafael Nadal would reach a record 11th French Open semi-final, closing in on his 11th championship at Roland Garros, was hardly surprising.

Rafa Nadal believes he still needs to reach an extra level if he is to lift an 11th Roland Garros title this weekend. Both men are at stages in their career that have previously been points of great decline for the greats who came before them.

"He is a nightmare opponent for Nadal", Wilander said about Del Potro, as quoted on Tennis World USA.

By the absurd standards Nadal has set here, even facing those break points amount to a lapse, as does the opening set he dropped to the terrier-like Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals.

Nadal, who already has more titles at a single Grand Slam than any men's player in history with his 10 French Open wins, can collect his 17th career major with a win Sunday.

Thiem, who ended the Cinderella stint of Italy's Marco Cecchinato 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1, is one of only three men to topple Nadal at least three times on the "terre battue". Still, I know how to play against him.

"And I have to have a clear plan at the time of coming out on the court".

The 10-time champion was in full control as Del Potro wilted under the relentless pressure of his whipping trademark forehand. That crucial early juncture altered the course of things, though. I will try everything for my plan to work out here, not only in Madrid or in Rome. I feel very fortunate to play in front of this crowd. If he wins the game, OK. "I have to fight till the end", he said. "He's one of the best players in the world on this surface", Nadal said.

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His opponent Friday will be Juan Martin del Potro, who got choked up after waiting almost a decade to return to the final four in Paris - and dealing with three wrist operations in the interim. He missed the tournament every year from 2013-16 because of injuries, including three operations on his left wrist. It is worth relaying, though, that in last year's semifinal, Nadal dropped just seven games total against the Austrian. "I think the first set I was a little bit tight in the beginning, and after I just enjoyed and relaxed". "I'll try my best and hopefully do better than previous year".

Nadal and Thiem have met nine times - all of them on clay.

Trying to beat Nadal at Roland Garros in a best-of-five match is akin to trying to beat '08 Phelps in the individual medley, or 2012 Usain Bolt in the 200-meter get the picture. That streak began after Thiem beat him in Rome a year ago.

"Thiem beat me in Madrid this year and played with big power". In the last two editions of French Open (2016 and 2017), he lost to eventual winners Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Nadal. Stephens won last year's U.S. Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals.

Thiem, who will be competing in his first Grand Slam final, beat Nadal at last year's Italian Open and won the pair's most recent meeting at the Madrid Open last month.

The dramatic comeback from a set and break down against Schwartzman in the last eight proved Nadal's competitive desire is as strong as ever.

The battle wore on and on, before, on the Austrian's fifth set point, Cecchinato went long to fall two sets behind.

"That was definitely the key to the match", Cecchinato said.

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