Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Dominic Thiem ends Cecchinato fairytale run

Nadal walks off court for the second time due to rain in Paris Nadal walks off court for the second time due to rain in Paris
Kristopher Love | 10 June, 2018, 03:13

The world number one is still the overwhelming favorite to pick up his 11th French Open title, but former victor Mats Wilander thinks Juan Martin del Potro, Nadal's semi-final opponent could cause him some troubles. Both men are at stages in their career that have previously been points of great decline for the greats who came before them.

"I'll watch the other semi-final to study my opponent and then it's full power on Sunday (June 10)".

On Sunday, Nadal will face No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian who reached his first Grand Slam final by eliminating unseeded Marco Cecchinato in straight sets. "I know I have to improve a little bit".

The 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Argentine wiped away tears during his on-court interview, telling fans who chanted his nickname, "delPo": "It has been a long time without good feelings on my body".

Thiem had too much, though, battling to take the first two sets and then cruising through the third to earn his shot at the title.

"I think that was my chance of the match". It is his most one-sided final win since allowing Federer just four games in the 2008 final.

Wilander believes Thiem can worry Nadal if he is prepared to "take risks" like Diego Schwartzman did in the quarter-finals when he snapped the left-hander's run of 37 consecutive completed sets won at the French Open by snatching the opener.

The delay enabled Nadal to regroup and he turned the deficit into a 5-3 lead before a second stoppage ended play for the day.

The 31-year-old cruised past fifth-seed Juan Martin del Potro this evening.

He says: "It's (been) a lot of years of playing and doing the same things every year".

While Thiem and Nadal are nearly spot on in their serving percentages this tournament, Nadal's returning has tended to be a little sharper and he will look to neutralise that aspect of the Austrian's game by getting balls back.

"I think he would still be out there waiting for the result had he won that first set, wondering what would happen".

"It was a good second and third set for me, and a good hold in the first".

Too good for almost everyone, nearly every time, on clay.

Returning to Court Philippe Chatrier Thursday, Nadal quickly polished off the second set, and with it, effectively, Schwartzman's challenge.

He is the only man to beat the world No. 1 on clay in the past two years - in Madrid this spring and in Rome last year. One of those victories came against Thiem in last year's semi-final and was, if anything, more comprehensive than this one.

Though the sports are so different, Nadal's dominance in the past two weeks - and stretching back to his US Open title in 2017 - bring to mind how sensational LeBron James has been for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.

Romania's Simona Halep will first play American Sloane Stephens in the women's singles final tomorrow.

"You know when you start the clay-court season that Dominic, he's one of these players that have the chance to win every tournament that he's playing", Nadal said, "and maybe even (more so) here in Roland Garros, because he's strong physically". Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months in 2016, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality. He looks like he is nearly back to his best this season having picked up two titles, which includes winning his first Masters Series title with a three set win over Federer at Indian Wells.

Thiem "plays very heavy topspin, very aggressive, goes for the shots, [has] fitness, condition", Moya said.