Friday, 21 September, 2018

Stephens eyes 2nd Slam title, Halep 1st in French Open final

GETTYRafael Nadal is in the French Open quarter-finals GETTYRafael Nadal is in the French Open quarter-finals
Kristopher Love | 12 June, 2018, 23:32

The fifth seed, who stunned Roger Federer to win the 2009 US Open at the age of 20, said he never imagined that the likes of the 20-time Grand Slam champion and Nadal would still be standing in his path at major tournaments nearly a decade later.

Dabrowski teamed with India's Rohan Bopanna to win last year's French Open mixed-doubles title and with Pavic to win the Australian Open mixed title earlier this year.

Rafael Nadal lost his first set in the French Open since 2015 but that blip did not prevent the 10-times champion from marching into the semi-finals with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Diego Schwartzman in their rain-delayed match on Thursday. "Five players in the Top 10 are over 6'5".

The top-seeded Nadal enters Sunday with a 10-0 record in title matches at Roland Garros and an overall career mark of 85-2 at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

"It is nearly impossible to beat Rafa", said Del Potro who had his chances in the semi-final but failed to convert any of his seven break points before his challenge petered out into tired hopelessness.

Serving to stay in the match at 4-5, the Austrian allowed mistakes to creep into his game.

But Thiem‚ 24‚ was too strong and now believes he has a particularly powerful weapon on his side for the final - breakfast.

- "He is fresh, healthy". Whenever he's been pushed to the brink at Roland Garros this year, Nadal has stood firm and overcome the challenge.

He fired long on a first set point, Nadal saved the second with a jaw-dropping drop shot but on the third, just after the match was interrupted for a few minutes while an unwell spectator was evacuated, Schwartzman unleashed a stunning forehand victor down the line - his 20th victor. And Francis Roig (Nadal's coach) said: You have to win another tournament to play with him!

The quarter-final tie was suspended on Wednesday with Nadal leading the second set 5-3.

"Thiem beat me in Madrid this year and played with big power".

"The big key was the second set‚" he said. "If I play defensively and I don't take intensity, I will be lost".

"There is a reason why he won 11 times here", said Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian appearing in his first major final.

The tournament is unlikely to make up much ground on its rival Slams in the coming years as its organisers, the French Tennis Federation (FFT), focus on financing a modernisation project which includes a new centre court with a retractable roof. "I have a plan".

Since they exchanged breaks of serve in the second and third games, both have held serve, with Nadal now ahead 5-4, with Thiem serving next.

Schwartzman would fade after a night-long rain delay, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

"I was not able to move the hand, the finger", Nadal said.

Looking ahead to the final and recalling Thiem's victory over Nadal in Madrid, a exhausted del Potro uttered: "Maybe on Sunday (Thiem) can repeat".

The Argentine has never beaten Nadal on clay.