Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sports | By Angie Alvarado

Halep to face Stephens for title as Nadal sweeps into semifinals

Halep to face Stephens for title as Nadal sweeps into semifinals

Ruthless Rafael Nadal punished Juan Martin del Potro for missed opportunities as he reached his 11th French Open final with a 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory on Friday (local time). Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the French Open.

Thiem, who ended the Cinderella stint of Italy's Marco Cecchinato 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1, is one of only three men to topple Nadal at least three times on the "terre battue".

Such is his motivation to win his 17th Grand Slam on Sunday, that the task facing Austrian 24-year-old Thiem was described as "almost impossible" by Del Potro.

Del Potro said the Austrian, the only player to beat Nadal on clay over the past two seasons, has a chance - albeit a slim one.

Gustavo Kuerten clinched the first of his three French Open crowns as a little-known 66th-ranked Brazilian in 1997.

World 72 Cecchinato had knocked out three seeded players to reach the semi-finals‚ including 12-time major victor Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Thiem's ability to bully opponents from the baseline was on display in his 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.

This was not the case during the first two tight sets between the Thiem and Cecchinato.

The world number one held serious discussions with coach Carlos Moyá in an intense session in the heat as he studiously went about his business.

Nadal is bidding to become only the second player to win 11 titles at any Grand Slam tournament after Margaret Court, who won the Australian women's singles title 11 times.

France Tennis French Open
Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro reacts after booking his place in the semi-finals

"That", del Potro would say later, "was my chance". (My) level is very good at the moment (and) I am very, very happy.

"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened a year ago, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters.

Del Potro had required the doctor early in the first set after appearing to jar his ankle in the red clay.He suffered a worrying power cut in the second set, slipping to 5-0 down on a double break, wasting his seventh break point out of seven on the way.

Thiem‚ who was playing in his third successive French Open semi-final‚ admitted the second set had been a nervy encounter after needing five set points to get through it.

"But after the loss, I go a little bit down with mental, and physically I play so many matches, so I think is normal".

"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said.

"Not a very nice feeling", Thiem said. This year they have met twice and split the wins, with Nadal destroying Thiem 6-0 6-2 in Monte Carlo and Thiem winning 7-5 6-3 in Madrid.

I don't want anyone to think that it's a routine.

The 25-year-old was banned for match-fixing in 2016, a penalty overturned on appeal.

"I came here without big expectations", said 2009 US Open champion Del Potro who has flirted with retirement on numerous occasions after a career-long battle with wrist injuries.


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