Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem reach finals

Ross Houston
June 12, 2018

Not only does Nadal boast the best win percentage on a surface, a staggering 91.89%, he has also won more than 60% of the clay court events he has played in.

The 10-time Roland Garros champion was second-best in the first set, but the powerful Del Potro was unable to claim a solitary break as he was thrashed 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 on a glorious Friday in Paris.

The victor of 10 French, three US Open, two Wimbledon and one Australian Open titles has won 87 of his 89 matches at the French.

When previewing this French Open - tipping Dominic Thiem at [14.00] - I wrote that Nadal was no certainty, and that, if looking only at their clay court form, Nadal should be a [1.55]-shot to beat the improving upstart, were they to meet.

But the Austrian believes he is poised to break through, attempting to deflect pressure onto Nadal.

The second was the No. 6 player in the world, Juan Martin del Potro, because facing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is about a hard a task as sport has to offer.

"It's not going to be easy but he's facing Dominic, we know he's the only player that beat him on clay the last couple of years".

The FFT topped up its overall prize money pot for this year's tournament by eight per cent to €39.2m, but diverted most of the increases to the lower reaches of the competition in a bid to narrow a gap between tennis' elite and middle classes.

"I know how to play against him".

Nadal will be chasing his 11th singles title here on Sunday, if rain does not push the final to next week.

Thiem, the No. 7 seed, reached his first Grand Slam final by ending the surprising run of 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy with a powerful 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 victory Friday.

"The big key was the second set", he said.

Thiem got off the blocks quick with a break in the very firsts game after Cecchinato fought off with three deuces.

"And if he would have won the tiebreak, he would be full power, for sure, in the third set".

Nadal, however, has won every one of the 10 finals he has contested here.

On the second, Thiem defeated Nadal 7-5, 6-3.

But an industrious Thiem responded with a strong hold and broke back at 5-5 with a sizzling forehand victor down the line, and served out the set in just 45 minutes.

Sealing the set, he still could not shrug off the underdog.

And then, all too quickly for the Italian, the accumulated fatigue of the previous five rounds took hold.

It would also mean that the sport's two greatest stars will have shared the last six majors, stretching back to Federer's 2017 Australian Open triumph. Nadal continues to return at a high level, makes very little unforced errors and pounces the second his opponent gives him a chance to take control of the match.

"It was a special tournament for me.

So I need more work for go top 10 or top 20, so these matches was very important for me".

But Thiem went for the kill in the seventh game, leaving an emotional Cecchinato to take the applause of the crowd.

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. Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months in 2016, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality.

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