The 32-year-old Spaniard, with 16 majors to his name, will play his 24th Grand Slam final at Roland Garros against Dominic Thiem who is in his first.
No player in history has won as many grand slam titles at a single tournament as Nadal has in Paris.
"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible", said Nadal after breezing past Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in Friday's semi-finals in what was his 85th win in Paris against just two defeats. I know what's happening in my career. Both played superbly - and both had chances to end it.
"If he continues with this desire, he can win many more times, like Federer for Wimbledon, and other major tournaments", said Del Potro whose own Grand Slam collection remains stuck on one - his 2009 US Open breakthrough.
"I was playing poorly, and my opponent was playing better. It was nearly impossible to beat him", del Potro said.
Nadal broke to take that set and was on his way, taking 14 of the last 17 games.
Cecchinato had sent Novak Djokovic packing in a thrilling quarter-final but Thiem's class on clay proved too much. That's why he's the No 1 and beating all the guys.
- "He is fresh, healthy".
"He looks fresh. He is healthy".
"It's not going to be easy but he's facing Dominic, we know he's the only player that beat him on clay the last couple of years".
Clay court supremo Nadal and 10-time French Open champion Nadal admitted to bout of nerves during his hard=fought quarter-final win over Argentinian underdog Diego Schwartzman.
Nadal, dubbed the "King of Clay" for his domination on the red dirt, had his back against the wall at 3-2 down in the second set Wednesday before the match was halted for rain.
Croatian Cilic played an terrible game when serving for the set, making four unforced errors, but he was gifted another chance to serve for the set after breaking Del Potro again and at the second time of asking he levelled the match.
Here is a full rundown of Friday's results and a closer look at how Nadal and Thiem set the stage for their French Open final encounter.
But that was only after Nadal had allowed him just two games in a last-eight mauling in Monte Carlo.
"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said.
It was a very different story when the contest resumed on Thursday in drier conditions as Nadal won 12 of the first 13 points before cruising into the last four.
"But I have a plan".
Thiem is clearly a live underdog in this match based on the amount of experience he has against Nadal on clay and the fact he's won 33.3 percent of those matches on a surface nearly nobody beats him on.
The Austrian also came out on top on clay in three sets in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires in 2016.
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After discussing his aspirations with an incredible 11th Roland Garros title now in sight, Rafa - a fervent Real Madrid fan - concluded, "I'm glad Cristiano is 23".