Thiem must come out firing when he faces heavy Nadal artillery
Jun 13, 2018, 19:27
Rafael Nadal looks to win back-to-back French Opens for the eighth time in his career after beating Juan Martin del Porto Friday in the semifinals at Roland Garros.
In Sunday's final, Nadal will face No. 7 Dominic Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria who is the only man to beat him on red clay over the past two seasons.
Nadal tightened his grip, going to 5-1 on another double break in the third set and sealed the match when Del Potro hit a backhand long.World 72 Cecchinato had knocked out three seeded players to reach the semi-finals, including 12-time major victor Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.But Thiem, 24, was too strong and now believes he has a particularly powerful weapon on his side for the final - breakfast.
It was hard not to feel sympathy for Thiem, playing in his first grand slam final against a man who simply does not lose this particular battle.
So if anyone could head into the French Open final with even the slightest reason to think there's a chance of preventing Nadal from winning a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros, it is his opponent Sunday.
Once Nadal stole the opener with a break in the 10th game, it was one-way traffic as he left Del Potro trailing in a cloud of Parisian clay dust to set up a final against Dominic Thiem.
"I couldn't play my best because of him", said del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.
Nadal said the 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory in 2 hours, 42 minutes was his best match of the tournament.
"I told him he needed to hit the ball very high and try to come inside the court".
Wilander believes Thiem can worry Nadal if he is prepared to "take risks" like Diego Schwartzman did in the quarter-finals when he snapped the left-hander's run of 37 consecutive completed sets won at the French Open by snatching the opener.
This will be the 10th tour-level encounter between Nadal and Thiem.
"You can win a set, but not a match against Rafa", said Del Potro keen not to over-egg any hint of weakness in Nadal's game.
But once a competive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal's "undecima" never looked in any doubt. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert.
"I was not able to move the hand, the finger", Nadal said. Over the past two years, including best-of-three matches, the Spaniard is 49-2 at clay tournaments.
True, he was obliterated by Nadal in the semi-final 12 months ago but Thiem has added more aggression to his natural claycourt weapons, specifically the forehand, as he displayed when stunning Nadal in the Madrid quarter-final.
"If I want to beat him", Thiem said, "I have to play that way".
Nadal, in an on-court interview, also said he's sure that runner-up Thiem will win the tournament in "the next couple of years". Yes, that's right: Thiem. "When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very risky". Stephens won last year's US Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals.
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