Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Ruthless Nadal crushes Del Potro to reach 11th French Open final

Rafael Nadal has lost his first set at the French Open since 2015 GETTY IMAGES Rafael Nadal has lost his first set at the French Open since 2015
Rita Gibson | 08 June, 2018, 20:37

For a reason even del Potro can not explain, he made a decision to stick with it.

Nadal had not even dropped a set in the tournament since that match against Djokovic, a run of 37 in a row that ended in the opener against the 5-foot-7 (1.70-meter) Schwartzman, an Argentine eyeing his first appearance in a major semi-final.

Nadal's backhand was doing most of the damage, with three winners having set up the double break on his way to a two-set lead, and Del Potro was broken to love in his first serve game of the third, with Nadal inflicting a devastating backhand victor up the flank after another majestic defence.

Del Potro dipped at the start of the third and Cilic had points for a double break but the burly Argentine, roared on by chants of "Delpo Delpo" recovered his drive to hit back from 0-2 and take the set.

Del Potro has looked one of the biggest threats to Nadal's domination this year, with his pulverising forehand dismantling everyone in his path on the Parisian clay.

And yet, insists Nadal: "I just go on court knowing that every match is hard, and I can lose and I can win".

The 29-year-old powerhouse´s eighth successive defeat of Cilic set up a clash with 10-times champion Rafael Nadal.

There is no doubt, too, that the goodwill from the fans he encounters week in week out has helped him get back to a good place.

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The fifth-seeded del Potro upset third-seed Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 to reach his first French Open semifinal in nine years.

Nadal's defence work, snaring his opponent into unforced errors, resulted in an early break in the second but Del Potro's service game deteriorated as he lost seven games on the spin to leave himself in need of a regroup, but it was one-way traffic.

The injuries had long dominated discussion about del Potro since he came.

- Dedicated his maiden Masters title at Indian Wells in March to his dog Cesar, which died the month before. His mental strength has been remarkable, but now it seems he is physically close to 100 percent again, he is looking only to the future.

"It has been a long time without a good feeling in my body. I think all the tougher moments of my life are completely in the past, and I'm enjoying a lot this present".

Tennis missed del Potro nearly as much as he missed it. Del Potro has claimed two of the last three after losing five straight from 2011-13.

Nearly the best any player can hope for at Roland Garros is to merely trouble the clay-court master, to make him slightly uncomfortable and perhaps even win a set, as Schwartzman did, before the inevitable Nadal victory comes to pass. Now he will have to go through Nadal.

"I played more aggressive", Nadal said, adding: "In my opinion, the match changed, no?"

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