Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Rafael Nadal beats Del Petro in French Open

Rafael Nadal beats Del Petro in French Open

Upon resumption on Thursday, the defending champion stepped on the gas and crushed Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

So what will he need to do to counter the credible threat of Thiem, the only man to beat him on clay this year, on Sunday?

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Plenty have gone in with sound tactical plans against the 16-times Grand Slam champion in Paris but when the forehand bombardment begins, the best-laid plans usually fall apart as was the case in Friday's semi-final when Nadal thrashed Juan Martin del Potro who many thought posed a credible threat.

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. For me it's incredible.

Thiem is the only player to beat Nadal on red clay over the past two seasons.

"I can not believe it now", Karin Thiem, a tennis coach, told a group of reporters. The tall Argentine created six break point opportunities on the Mallorcan's serve, and faced none on his own in the first nine games.

As if the task was not daunting enough for Thiem, the early signs were even more ominous.

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He appeared to be in near peak form against del Potro - once the all important first set went in his favor.

After holding there, Nadal broke del Potro to take that set and was on his way, taking 14 of the last 17 games.

This was the No. 5-seeded del Potro's first semifinal at Roland Garros since 2009. Best of five is also a different story.

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. "And so that puts the bar really high and the pressure is at its maximum, that's why he's so tough to beat".

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Thiem had to weather three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9.

"If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match and I didn't want that".

"Even if it was 6-3 6-4, it was an uncomfortable match for me", Nadal said.

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Only two players have managed to beat Nadal at the French Open since he first bounded into Roland Garros in 2005 armed with a bulging left bicep, pirate trousers and a pulverising brand of claycourt tennis the like of which had not been seen before.

He's 85-2 at the French Open.

"He's too strong. He's improving his backhand a lot".

Cecchinato gained his first lead at 5-4 on a quickfire serve but Thiem rallied back with a timely drop shot to take the first set. The Austrian looked very assured against Alexander Zverev as well as Cecchinato.

That 61-minute set sucked the life out of the crowd favourite and Thiem pounced, quickly moving to a double break at 5-0 in the third set.

"They are the first set is everything, and the weather is everything".

The pair were locked on serve in the second set until they were separated by an enthralling tiebreak.

The 25-year-old is on a roll and has nothing to lose on Friday, making him a unsafe opponent for Thiem.

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"When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very unsafe. It was destructive a little bit", Thiem, who won two claycourt tournaments this season, said.

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