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Nadal advances to 11th French Open final, will face Thiem for title

Rafael Nadal celebrates match point during his match against Juan Martin Del Potro during the semifinals of the 2018 French Open on Friday, June 8, at Roland Garros. Susan Mullane / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Dominic Thiem in action during his match against Marco Cecchinato during the 2018 French Open semifinals Friday, June 8, at Roland Garros in Paris. Susan Mullane / USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

PARIS—Rafael Nadal's quest for an 11th French Open title continues, as the top-seeded Spaniard reached the men's final with a straight-sets win over Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals on Friday, June 8.

Nadal will face Austrian Dominic Thiem for the championship on Sunday, June 10. Thiem, seeded seventh, also swept through his semifinal match, beating unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato, 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1.

Nadal did not have nearly as difficult a time against the fifth-seeded del Potro. After a tough first set, Nadal jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and rolled, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. The win continues Nadal's undefeated run on championship weekend in Roland Garros—the Spaniard has never lost in Paris after reaching the semifinals.

"It was a good second and third set for me, of course, and a good hold in the first," Nadal said afterward. "Good tactics and mentality in the first set. That gave me the possibility to play much better later on the match."

Against del Potro, Nadal did not record a single ace and converted only 61 percent of his first serves. But the hard-hitting del Potro did little to take advantage, struggling with a hip injury that seemed to get further aggravated as the match progressed.

Nadal, who already has more titles at a single Grand Slam than any men's player in history with his 10 French Open wins, can collect his 17th career major with a win Sunday. That would move him to within three of the all-time mark of 20 held by Roger Federer.

"I got a little lucky. I'm so happy to be in the final again," said Nadal afterward. "Without working hard and going through tough moments and still being focused on your passion for the game it is impossible to be here. After all these years, in 2005 the first one, is something I never dreamed about."

As for Thiem, the 24-year-old is in his first Grand Slam final. After a harrowing first two sets, Thiem needed only 21 minutes to win the clinching set.

"The big key was the second-set tiebreak because it was very close and I saved I think three set points," Thiem said after the match. "If I lost that tiebreak it would have been a very close match and I didn't want that.

"Of course it's very important to have a good recovery now. I'll watch the other semifinal to study my opponent and then it's full power on Sunday."

Nadal is 6-3 all-time against Thiem, but the Austrian has beaten the Spaniard twice on clay in the last 13 months: Once at Rome in 2017 and again in Madrid earlier this season, with the latter ending a 21-match and 50-set win streak on clay for Nadal.

"I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great," Nadal said. "I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances. Good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay-court season. So Sunday is the day to give my best, is the day to increase my level even a little bit more."