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Rafael Nadal reaches record 11th French Open final

Rafael Nadal reaches record 11th French Open final

Nadal hails his 11th French Open title as "just incredible" despite a worrying injury scare in the closing stages of the final.

Cecchinato brilliantly saved two break points at 2-2 in the second and continued to hold his own to reach a tie-break, where a series of sensational winners from both players saw Thiem let three successive set points slip.

The world No 1 faces Del Potro who has made the last-four for the first time in nine years.

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

"But I have a plan".

But it was in the second set that turned on the heat, momentarily. He went down to Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters at Monte Carlo and in Barcelona. "I was just focused and try to hold the situation and just trying to be positive on every point, no?"

But that was only after Nadal had allowed him just two games in a last-eight mauling in Monte Carlo.

"I'm very happy to return to the final at Roland Garros", he said. "I have done a lot of things well in the clay court season, it is going to be tough final but I believe I can be ready".

On Sunday, Nadal will go up against Austria's Dominic Thiem, the eighth-ranked player in the world and someone who has defeated Nadal before.

Nadal crushed Del Potro's spirit with the intensity of his tennis in the second set, bounding 5-0 ahead before the Argentine registered a game to lift the spirits of his fans. All have been on clay, and Nadal leads 6-3, including 2-0 in Paris, beating Thiem in the first round in 2014 and the semifinals a year ago.

His ideal sliding and fine single-handed backhand make him a fearsome player on clay and Cecchinato believes he has what it takes to continue his climb up the rankings. There were no breaks of serve through the 12 games, with Thiem earning three break points while giving away none.

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

They tried their best to rouse their man in the third set but it was mission impossible as Nadal, clubbing the ball as if his life depended on it, finished like a raging bull as he headed into his 24th Grand Slam final. So they always win the big tournaments.

But once he squandered that chance against Thiem, the only man to beat 10-times Paris champion Rafael Nadal on clay this season, the Italian ended up falling to a 7-5 7-6 (10) 6-1 defeat.

So, if a player as good as Thiem is on clay is still struggling for parity with Nadal, and there is no other obvious contender to trouble him, his path to at least 13 or 14 French titles would seem to be one covered in rose petals - if he stays healthy. Borg has also twice won the French Open without dropping a set and Federer has won Wimbledon and Australian Open once each, without dropping a set.

Nadal has not lost at Roland Garros when taking the first set and that record did not look like coming under threat as he continually rebuffed Thiem's attempts to make inroads into his serve, taking the second courtesy of an early break.

In 2016, Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality.

One of those victories came against Thiem in last year's semi-final and was, if anything, more comprehensive than this one.

Thiem battled to a 7-5 7-6 and then walloped a clearly dejected Cecchinato 6-1 in the third to qualify for the final after making the semi-final on three consecutive occasions.

But an industrious Thiem responded with a strong hold and broke back at 5-5 with a sizzling forehand victor down the line, and served out the set in just 45 minutes.

But Philippe Chatrier "is his court", a smiling Moya said of Nadal.