Nadal to battle del Potro in French Open semi-final

Austria's Dominic Thiem in action during his semi final match against It

Thiem is the only man to have beaten Nadal on clay over the past two seasons, including a surprise victory in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last month, but there was no repeat shock on Court Philippe Chatrier as the top seed prevailed 6-4 6-3 6-2.

Nadal has never failed to win the title when reaching the last four at Roland Garros, but knows that Del Potro, who he has lost to five times, is a unsafe opponent.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion has won the tournament 10 times.

Thiem went through one pivotal stretch against Cecchinato, a 25-year-old from Sicily who never had won a Grand Slam match until this tournament and was the lowest-ranked men's semi-finalist at the clay-court major in 19 years.

The world No. 8 made history of his own Friday, becoming the second Austrian male to advance to a grand slam final after the hard-nosed 1995 French Open champion, Thomas Muster.

In dropping the opener on Wednesday, Nadal had lost a set at Roland Garros for the first time since a 2015 quarter-final defeat by Novak Djokovic.

Only three times (once when he withdrew with an injury) has the Mallorcan not reached the French Open final since he first re-defined claycourt tennis in 2005 as a sleeveless warrior.

He is the only man to beat the world number one on clay in the last two years - in Madrid this spring and in Rome last year.

But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32."Thiem is an fantastic player".

Breaking serve in the first game and bouncing to a 4-2 lead, Thiem controlled proceedings before Cecchinato reeled off the next three games with trademark flair and adventure. But after the loss, I go a little bit down mentally and physically.

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I played two sets at the same level as Dominic Thiem. "I can say a lot of things, but the easiest answer and the real answer is to play well".

"It's always a pleasure playing him in a Grand Slam".

However, he quickly recovered and looked to have the ascendancy, but the Argentine let six break-point chances slip and Nadal pounced with a solitary break in the 10th game which was enough to allow him to seal the set after 54 minutes of high-octane action. "I was very scared".

Against del Potro, Nadal did not record a single ace and converted only 61 percent of his first serves. I expect that he will be a really good player on clay.

Thiem‚ who was playing in his third successive French Open semi-final‚ admitted the second set had been a nervy encounter after needing five set points to get through it.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.

He said: "If I had won the second set, I think it would have been a totally different third set".

"Otherwise, it's not a very nice feeling". This year they have met twice and split the wins, with Nadal destroying Thiem 6-0 6-2 in Monte Carlo and Thiem winning 7-5 6-3 in Madrid.

This time, however, he lost it 12/10 despite having three set points. "Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about", he said.

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