Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Thiem steamrolls into maiden grand slam final

Top seed Rafael Nadal Simona Halep cruise through to quarter-finals Serena Williams withdraws on Day 10 of French Open WATCH: Del Potro directs frustration at Paris spectator
Rita Gibson | 12 June, 2018, 10:56

The Spanish world number one edged a tight first set but then simply blew fifth seed Del Potro away.

James Dudko, Bleacher Report: "Thiem's growing expertise on clay, as well as his recent winning form, should warn Nadal this final will be far from easy".

But this had nothing to do with winning or losing his French Open semifinal against Juan Martín del Potro, whom Nadal had just manhandled, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, to earn a spot in the final against Dominic Thiem. For me it's incredible.

"I know how to play against him", he said, without elaborating.

"I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances", said Nadal, who needs to win Sunday to hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

"I can not believe it now", Karin Thiem, a tennis coach, told a group of reporters.

Nadal, by contrast, had not had a sniff on Del Potro's serve until, at 5-4, two swishes of his forehand forced two set points, the second of which he converted when the Argentinian netted.

There have, however, appeared to be one or two chinks in Nadal's armour at Roland Garros this year. The Austrian won just one of the first nine points as Nadal immediately broke for 2-0.

When del Potro avoided a bagel in the sixth game of the second, he raised his arms in celebration.

This was the No. 5-seeded del Potro's first semifinal at Roland Garros since 2009.

They tried their best to rouse their man in the third set but it was mission impossible as Nadal, clubbing the ball as if his life depended on it, churned out winners.

"It's his court, he has the keys and he has to take advantage of that", said Moya, referring to Nadal's track record at Philippe Chatrier stadium. Dominic Thiem has found a way to sprinkle Kryptonite into the clay courts of the great European capitals once in each of the past two seasons, defusing Rafael Nadal's superpowers in Madrid and in Rome.

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"The weather, I watched a bit of footage of the (Robin) Soderling victory over Nadal here in 2009".

"I think that was my chance of the match", Del Potro said of the ninth game.

"The most important thing is that the weapons are there and the physical shape and of course, there is also the mental part", the 24-year-old said.

Women's final: No. 1 Simona Halep beat No. 10 Sloane Stephens, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

This was about Nadal, the pride of Spain, trying to do his postmatch interview in French.

Cecchinato's nerves settled and the Sicilian unleashed some trademark backhand winners but Thiem had too much pace and power. The Austrian looked very assured against Alexander Zverev as well as Cecchinato.

Thiem sent Cecchinato scurrying around the court before breaking decisively for a 6-5 lead with a lovely forehand victor.

The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second. "It was like a new match after the first set".

The punishment continued, with Thiem by now looking up to his coach and shrugging as another forehand whistled past him. The Argentine dropped the second set against the Croat but came back strong to take the match 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

"When I missed that volley it wasn't a very nice feeling".

"But then I got lucky to win the first set, playing two good points".

But this year's final is already different from any of Nadal's previous 10 in Paris or any of his 13 other Grand Slam finals.

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