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Rafa Nadal Beats Del Potro • Dom Thiem Ends Cecchinato’s Roland Garros Run • Sunday Final In Paris

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina during their men’s semi final match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 08 June 2018. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON



By Ricky Dimon


It’s not like he’s needed it, but Rafael Nadal has benefited from a little bit of luck during this clay-court swing. The world No. 1 trailed Alexander Zverev in the Rome final and Diego Schwartzman in the French Open quarters before coming out like gangbusters in the wake of rain delays.


Nadal required no help of any kind on Friday at Roland Garros.


The 10-time FO champion earned a place in the final for an 11th time when he beat Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the day’s second semifinal. Nadal withstood an early charge from Del Potro and then pulled away to get the job done after two hours and 14 minutes of competition.


Del Potro’s one chance came in the opening set. Well, it was more like six chances to be exact. The world No. 6 got a look at three break points at 1-1 and three again at 4-4 but could not convert on any occasion. Unable to take hold of the momentum, Del Potro faced the pressure of serving to stay in it at 4-5 and promptly got broken to throw away a set he arguably should have won.


From there it was off to the races for Nadal, who dropped only three total games the entire rest of the way. The Spaniard had to fend off just one more break point, which he did successfully at 2-0, 30-40 in the second frame of play.


“You need to still focus,” Nadal explained when asked about facing a 0-40 deficit at 1-1 in the first and a 15-40 hole at 4-4. “Sometimes when you are love-40 you believe that you have already lost the game, and the normal thing is that you lose the game. Of course with love-40 and 15-40, (the) normal thing, at minimum, (is) you lose one of these two games; but today (that) was not that case. I feel a little bit lucky for that. For me, the only way to approach this is just think point by point, just try to think about how to win the point of love-40, then the 15-40. And then when you are 30-40, you know that you are close to [saving] it. Because if you come back to deuce, the chances are better for you than for the opponent.


“So (I was) just thinking in a positive way and just thinking that I have to hold; I can’t give him the game. If he wins the game, okay; but I will not give him. That’s the only way for me to approach the tough moments.”


“I think that was my chance of the match,” said Del Potro, referencing the first set. “I had a lot of break points; I couldn’t make it. Rafa served well, played good points [on the] break points, and I got unlucky in that moment. Could be (a) different match if I win the first set. But then he made me run a lot. (His) intensity is too high the whole match and I couldn’t stay [stay in it] after the first set. He deserved to win. He played much better from the beginning till the end.


“When you don’t take your chances against the No. 1 in the world, you’re in trouble. And that [happened] today…. It’s not easy (against Nadal at Roland Garros). It was almost impossible to beat him.”


That (almost) impossible mission now belongs to Dominic Thiem, who won Friday’s first semifinal against Marco Cecchinato. Having twice come up one round short of the title match at RG, the 24-year-old Austrian got over the hump by ending the unseeded Italian’s run 7-5, 7-6(10), 6-1 after two hours and 17 minutes.


“I don’t think it’s a real breakthrough,” Thiem suggested. “I mean, I played (in the) semis (the) last two years. So (I) just went one step further today.


“The second-set tiebreak was the big key to the match, 100 percent, because obviously he felt all the matches from these two weeks after that. And if he would have won the tiebreak, he would [have been better] in the third set. So it was good for me that I won it.”


“I played [for two sets at] the same level [as] Dominic Thiem,” Cecchinato reflected. “I think he’s the second or third-best player on red clay. For me, [my] level is very good in this moment. And after Roland Garros, I am very, very happy…. If I won the second set, I think [it would be a] totally different the third set. But after the loss, I go a little bit down [mentally] and physically. I [have played] so many matches, so I think (it) is normal.”


Nobody has played more matches in recent seasons than ATP iron man Thiem. Now he gets to play in his biggest one of all on Sunday afternoon.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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