Thiem beats Cecchinato at French Open to reach first Grand Slam final

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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.

Ten-times champion Nadal then pounced in the 10th game to take the opening set and fifth seed Del Potro's challenged evaporated in the Court Philippe Chatrier sunshine.

Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal meet in the final of the 2018 tennis French Open.

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.

Steen: Del Potro will have a great shot as Nadal struggled a bit to start his match against Schwartzman.

Nadal emerged victorious in straight sets, including a memorable second in which he dropped just the one game.

"He's [Nadal] a big favorite against everybody", said Thiem. The only loss this clay court season has been to Thiem in the quarter-final of the Madrid Masters though he holds a 6-3 head-to-head advantage over the Austrian.

In truth, however, I'd be mightily surprised if Thiem lost this match.

Halep will face Stephens after the US Open victor maintained her flawless record against fellow American Madison Keys with a 6-4 6-4 win in the other semi-final.

In the first semifinal, Dominic Thiem ended Cecchinato's Cinderella run via a 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 victory. He is 10-0 in French Open finals and 77-0 at the tournament overall when he wins the first set, so getting a jump on him early - a tactic far easier to write about than to execute - would seem to be a fairly obvious strategy.

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"It's always hard to play someone from your country and such a good friend, but I'm happy I played my tennis", Stephens said.

"I'll watch the other semi-final to opponent and then it's full power on Sunday". "I think if I'm facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure". "His game is too good for me".

Upon resumption, the Spaniard gradually improved before rain brought an early end to the day with Nadal on the brink of winning the second set.

But as he himself added later, Nadal in Paris in a best-of-five match is a different ball-game from Nadal elsewhere (even on clay).

Cecchinato's career has been tainted by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal; he was banned for 18 months in 2016 before having the suspension overturned.

The third quickly disappeared as well and Cecchinato had set points of his own, but Thiem finally put the Italian away before going on to win 7-5 7-6 (12/10) 6-1.

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This time, Thiem instead faced Cecchinato, who never had won a Grand Slam match until this tournament and was the lowest-ranked men's semifinalist at the clay-court major in 19 years.

Del Potro found the breakthrough at 5-5 in a tight fourth set, when Cilic sent a backhand long to give him a break and he went on to serve out the match.