Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Thiem ends Cecchinato fairytale to reach French Open final

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Freda Brock | 09 June, 2018, 08:44

Although at times during the first set against Del Potro, especially when he was 0-40 down at 1-1 and 15-40 down at 4-4 it looked as though he might be in for a real scrap.

Ten-times champion Nadal then pounced in the 10th game to take the opening set and fifth seed Del Potro's challenged evaporated in the Court Philippe Chatrier sunshine.

I'm sticking to my guns in saying the world's second-best clay courter is a 36-year-old Swiss who opted not to play in this event, but Thiem's run to the final has cemented his status as the second-best clay court player who competed here. 'When you're in a final like Roland Garros, it's a great happiness. For me it's incredible.

"I came here without big expectations", said 2009 US Open champion Del Potro who has flirted with retirement on numerous occasions after a career-long battle with wrist injuries. It is nice to get the two best clay courters possible in Sunday's final. Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about. However, he was beaten in the most recent - the US Open semi-final previous year - and has lost nine of their 14 matches overall.

But Nadal's domination on the Roland Garros clay, where his record now stands at 85-2, is without equal and he will be a huge favourite to beat Grand Slam final debutant Thiem.

"I believe that there is chances, limited chances in your career", Nadal said.

'It may sound easy and logical, but I don't want it to be.

"It is nearly impossible to beat Rafa", said Del Potro who had his chances but failed to convert any of his seven break points before his challenge petered out into tired hopelessness.

Thiem has beaten Nadal on clay in each of the past two seasons, including just a few weeks ago on clay in Madrid, so that will certainly boost his confidence.

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"Of course the chance is really small [for Thiem] but I think that DelPo kind of showed the way".

Said Schwartzman: "Rafa was totally different guy yesterday, and today the match changed a lot". In the fourth game Friday, del Potro clutched at his left hip after being wrong-footed by one shot from Nadal and was visited by a doctor at the next changeover.

Now only Dominic Thiem stands in the way of Nadal and what seems an inevitable 11th Roland Garros title.

At the French Open this year, Nadal has looked sluggish in the opening exchanges.

"He's been a very complex opponent". We expect a better Thiem for sure than the one we met past year.

The 10-time champion lost the first set 6-4 to the impressive Argentine Wednesday, but returned under sunny skies Thursday to win the next three sets 6-3 6-2 6-2 to reach the French Open semifinals. Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months in 2016, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality. He had lost the first five games of the set and was fighting to avoid a bagel in the sixth.

"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said. Thiem's 35 match-wins this year are the most of any man on the circuit.

The unheralded Cecchinato simply being here is freaky for a number of reasons, not least his 10-8 final set success over Marius Copil in the first round, a match which lasted nearly four hours.

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