Rafael Nadal chases record 11th crown

Rafael Nadal chases record 11th crown

Rafael Nadal chases record 11th crown

Del Potro pulled up with a hip complaint as he trailed 2-1 in the first set against Nadal, but despite clear discomfort, he fought on and made it a dogged affair until surrendering a break that gave the world No. 1 an advantage.

Nadal is going for title number 11 at Roland Garros. Both men knew that full well.

Nadal became the second man in the Open Era to reach the final at one Grand Slam event on 11 occasions after Roger Federer, who has reached 11 Wimbledon finals. After a tough first set, Nadal jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and rolled, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

On Sunday, Nadal will face No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian who reached his first Grand Slam final by eliminating unseeded Marco Cecchinato in straight sets.

Austria's Dominic Thiem celebrates after winning his semi final match against Italy's Marco Cecchinato. And I had my chances today, but I couldn't play my best because of him.

"But I have a plan". Del Potro had forced six break points during the first set, but the Spaniard fended each one off. He went down to Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters at Monte Carlo and in Barcelona. I'm not interested in these things, I just play tennis. If he wins the game, OK.

Truth is, there were not many the rest of the way, as Nadal finished with 35 winners and just 19 unforced errors.

Nadal did not have almost as hard a time against the fifth-seeded del Potro.

"For sure", said Thiem's coach, Gunter Bresnik, "this gives you a little hope".

"He is, for me, the best competitor I ever saw in any sport, and I watch sport a lot for many, many years", said Gunter Bresnik, Thiem's 57-year-old coach.

"Everybody calls me an idiot, maybe even for good reason", Bresnik said. "This is why the guy was dominating clay-court tennis over the last 14 years like nobody else before". The Austrian has already won two titles (Lyon and Buenos Aires) this season and had also reached the final of Madrid Open last month. "He beat me in Madrid, he has big power so I have to be at my best and improve", said Nadal.

Only two men have stopped Rafael Nadal in the past and they have merely proven to be bumps in the road as the King of Clay lifted aloft the French Open crown jewels on no fewer than 10 occasions.

One of those was a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 rout in the Roland Garros semi-finals 12 months ago.

And the world No. 8 wasted no time in racing away with the decisive third set to book his place against Nadal in his first grand-slam final.

But Checchinato could not quite keep up with Thiem and his big baseline game.

Thiem battled to a 7-5 7-6 and then walloped a clearly dejected Cecchinato 6-1 in the third to qualify for the final after making the semi-final on three consecutive occasions.

Bresnik has taken plenty of flak through the years for pushing Thiem to play such a dense tournament schedule, but the coach has long insisted that it is part of a master plan to build a resilient champion.

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

"After that, my level dropped".

Rafael Nadal powered his way into the French Open final and then claimed he can still move up another gear.

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