Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem reach finals

Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem reach finals

It is not inconceivable - indeed, it is likely - that Rafael Nadal will finish his career with more French Open titles than Novak Djokovic has majors, and he should take the aggregation to 11 on Sunday, regardless of the quality of his opponent, Dominic Thiem.

There was cause for concern, also, when Nadal quit with a leg injury in the fifth set of his quarter-final against Marin Cilic at the Australian Open this year, heightened when he then withdrew from hard-court tournaments in Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami - but he has blossomed on the red dirt of Europe.

He did not look unduly affected though and his heavy groundstrokes took a toll on Nadal, who rescued three more break points in the ninth game, one with a sublime drop shot.

After struggling in his quarterfinal against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal is approaching his best form ahead of the final and hopes are high that the Spanish star will emerge victorious.

'For me, the motivation to play here is always high, as high as possible, ' he said.

Thiem, meanwhile, becomes the first Austrian to reach a Grand Slam final since Thomas Muster triumphed at Roland Garros in 1995. I know I have to play at my best.

'Good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay court season.

Seventh seed Thiem is probably second only to Nadal on clay and must take confidence from two victories over the world No 1 on the surface in the last 13 months, including in Madrid just last month.

So what will he need to do to counter the credible threat of Thiem, the only man to beat him on clay this year, on Sunday? 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. "I have a plan".

'But for me, at every tournament I believe that there are chances, limited chances in your career.

" If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that".




That win, according to three-times former champion Mats Wilander, should be all Thiem is thinking about when he prepares for Sunday's clash.

What went through Nadal's mind right then? The third set was dominated by Thiem, who raced to a 4-0, two-break lead in 12 minutes.

"It was someone who made a loud [sound] before my serve, and I made [a] double fault", Del Potro said. "I'm not the one who has the pressure". The final starts at 6.30 pm IST.

In the fourth game Friday, del Potro clutched at his left hip after being wrong-footed by one shot from Nadal and was visited by a doctor at the next changeover, but said afterward it was not a big deal.

Argentine Del Potro often had Nadal in trouble in a ferocious first set but paid heavily for failing to convert any of the six break points that came his way at 1-1 and 4-4.

Nadal added another US Open crown at Arthur Ashe Stadium in NY in 2013 and a third previous year.

The vanquished del Potro acknowledged as much as he reflected on the brief stretch where he was able to put up some resistance to Nadal's unremitting intensity.

"That was not a nice feeling".

More prize money is up for grabs than ever before at this year's French Open but it remains the least lucrative of the four Grand Slams for players to win.

While Nadal was untouchable a year ago, he's been pushed to tiebreakers by Simone Bolelli and Maximilian Marterer.

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