Dominic Thiem ends Cecchinato fairytale to reach French Open final

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Nadal made easy work of No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, win, while Thiem eliminated upstart Italian Marco Cecchinato by a 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1, score.

Under pressure at the outset, Rafael Nadal already had cast aside three break points in his French Open semifinal's third game when, at 4-all, Juan Martin del Potro held another three.

Dominic Thiem awaits Nadal in Sunday's final, where the Spaniard will be hoping to avenge his defeat at the Madrid Open last month.

There was a sense of inevitability in the air when Del Potro served at 4-5 and sure enough Nadal turned the screws to grab two set points at 15-40. "That's why I got angry with someone".

Top seed Nadal, 32, trailed 6-4 3-5 when play was halted on Wednesday.

Relentless Nadal broke to love at the start of the third, and as he moved on to match point an exhausted Del Potro paused for breath, bent double, as if he had been punched in the stomach. He had lost the first five games of the set and was fighting to avoid a bagel in the sixth. A victory over Thiem would allow him to equal Margaret Court's career record of 11 singles titles at a single major tournament. And from then on, when I managed to win the set, the game changed.

Nadal is 6-3 head-to-head against Thiem, but they've split their two meetings this season. "Although he can lose matches, but the way he plays suits clay courts very well". However, he was beaten in the most recent - the US Open semi-final past year - and has lost nine of their 14 matches overall.

"He is, for me, the best competitor I ever saw in any sport, and I watch sport a lot for many, many years, " said Gunter Bresnik, Thiem's 57-year-old coach.

I'll be back tomorrow to assess the ladies final, and again on Sunday to preview the men's final - I fully expect it to be Nadal v Thiem, but we shall see if Messrs Del Potro and Cecchinato can do anything about this.

Nadal is the hot favourite to win the second Grand Slam of the year, having dominated on the red clay since making his Roland Garros debut in 2005. "So it was good for me that I won it".

"Nadal, in Paris, best-of-five, is still half a class above Dominic, half a level too good, " said Bresnik, who has coached Thiem since the Austrian was nine. I don't think you can know exactly how old your body is [in that way].

Cecchinato's catalogue of drop shots which helped account for Novak Djokovic kept Thiem on his toes throughout, but once the pivotal tie-break went the seventh seed's way Cecchinato's unlikely run was all but over. Thiem has split his last 10 final appearances and is 8-5 in career final appearances on clay.

He has proved that he is a major threat to Nadal in best-of-three-set matches on clay, beating him three times, most recently in straight sets in the quarter-finals of the Masters 1000 event in Madrid this year.

-When you buy Tennis Channel Plus, your 12-month subscription gets you access to every ATP Masters 1000 tournament played outside the US, and every round through the finals of WTA Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati.

At long last, Thiem converted his fifth set point when Cecchinato sent a forehand long.

"Once he gets ahead in the match, his confidence gets back", said Moya, the 1998 French Open champion.

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