Rafael Nadal reaches record 11th French Open final

Rafael Nadal

One fact: He reached his record 11th French Open final on Friday when he clambered out of six break-point thickets in the first set and destroyed the player soon to be ranked No. 4 in the world, Juan Martin del Potro, by 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. The second set like, the first was dominated by serve until Cilic fired himself up to break at 4-4 - a furious Del Potro throwing his racket at the changeover.

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.

Nadal, meanwhile, lost his first set at the French Open since 2015 but that blip did not stop him marching into the semi-finals with a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman.

Juan Martin del Potro took his frustration out on a fan during his quarterfinal Roland Garros encounter with Marin Cilic-though he couldn't quite figure out which spectator to zone in on. "And in the end, I got it, and now I'm having a great present, looking forward for the future".

Every stat pointed toward Nadal being the superior player on Friday, though, especially on serve.

Del Potro missed another chance at 2-0 in the second set and from that point there was only going to be one victor.

With that being said, Thiem is on the upswing of his career.

Del Potro has looked one of the biggest threats to Nadal's domination this year, with his pulverising forehand dismantling everyone in his path on the Parisian clay. The 32-year-old is just 6-3 against Thiem in his career, and all three of those losses have come on clay.

"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible".

The former US Open champion, who nearly retired from the sport two years ago after persistent wrist injuries, had said he would make a "last-minute decision" on his Roland Garros participation after suffering a leg injury at the Rome Masters.

Dominic Thiem reached his first Grand Slam final and ended the surprising French Open run of 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato (cheh-key-NAH'-toe) of Italy.

Cilic, bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time after falling in the last eight 12 months ago, kept his nose in front in the fourth.

"I'm facing Rafa so I'm not the one who has the pressure", said Thiem.

If Nadal's march toward an 11th championship at Roland Garros was going to be stopped on this day, things were going to have to go del Potro's way right then.

"I think, and I didn't put not one bad face. But I guess the way he's been playing the last three sets yesterday and the last two sets today is going to help give him confidence", said Moya on Friday. I have to play my best. It was within myself, Nadal said of the difference in his play between Wednesday and Thursday.

"I was playing poorly, and my opponent was playing better".

Now he will face Thiem - the only player to beat him on clay in the past two years - in Sunday's final.

Nevertheless Cecchinato can look back on a breakthrough tournament - he had never won a match at a grand slam before beating Marius Copil 10-8 in the fifth set last week. Thiem got to 10-all with a drop shot of his own.

Any discussion about Cecchinato's match-fixing scandal should start with an acknolwedgement of his ultimate acquittal, but the circumstantial evidence certianly isn't particularly favorable (read this thread for details).

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