Nadal and Thiem to contest final
I had my chances today, but I couldn't play my best because of him. His game is too good for me
Dominic Thiem and Rafael Nadal won their semi final matches in Paris on Friday and will face one another in what is perhaps the final that many tennis fans would have chosen
The first of the day’s semi finals was between No 7 seed Dominic Thiem and unseeded Marco Cecchinato. Thiem won 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1.
Marco Cecchinato, the world No 72 had never won a Grand Slam match until he came to Paris this year, but has captured the imagination as well as some of the hearts of the Parisians. The Italian who had come back from a two set to love deficit in his first round match against Marius Copil had also beaten No 10 seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round, No 8 seed David Goffin in the round of 16 and Novak Djokovic in the quarter finals.
By contrast Dominic Thiem who had come past the No 2 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarter finals has so much pedigree on clay and has had a stellar year winning 34 matches, was easily the favourite on paper for the match, if not the choice of the crowd.
The first set was tightly fought with Thiem winning it 7-5. The second set was decided by a 22-point tiebreak, where Thiem’s experience showed through. The second set lasted 66 minutes and with the Italian having put so much into that Thiem wrapped up the third, dropping only one more game, to take the match in 2 hours and 17 minutes.
Thiem said: “The second-set tiebreak was the big key to the match, 100%, because obviously he felt all the matches from these two weeks after that. If he had won the tiebreak, he would be full power, for sure, in the third set. So it was good for me that I won it.”
Cecchinato who had two set points in the second set was satisfied with his level of play. He said, “I played two set the same level against Dominic Thiem. I think he's the second or third-best player on red clay.”
When the rankings are released on Monday the Italian will be ranked around No 27, will be seeded at Wimbledon and is re-thinking his schedule because of the rapid ranking rise. His previous career high ranking is No.59, achieved in April this year.
Meanwhile Thiem is contemplating his first Roland Garros final. “Of course there is pressure especially in Grand Slam finals, because I went a very long way now and I don't want to lose the finals; otherwise, it's not a very nice feeling,” he said. “But on the other hand, it's so tough to go all the way in such a tournament.”
Aged 24 years and 280 days Thiem is the youngest Roland Garros finalist since Nadal, aged 24 years and 3 days, won the title in 2010. He is also only the second Austrian to reach a Grand Slam final, alongside Thomas Muster.
Thiem’s opponent will be Rafael Nadal who played Juan Martin del Potro in the second of Friday’s semi-finals. Nadal won 6-4 6-1 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.
The match may not have been the competitive match that many people had anticipated, as once the Argentinean had failed to take advantage of break points at 4-4, in the first set, the match slipped from his grasp.
“Rafa served well, he played good points in those break points, and I got unlucky in that moment,” Del Potro said. “He deserved to win. He played much better from the beginning till the end.”
Del Potro who called for the trainer early in the match said afterwards, “I just did a bad movement with my hip at the beginning of the match, but it wasn't nothing, nothing dangerous”, but said later in his press conference that he did feel it during the match.
Despite the characteristically humble assessment of his own level of play today, Del Potro has played some great tennis recently and will equal his highest ever career ranking at No 4 in the world when the rankings are released.
“I mean, not many players can beat him (Rafa) on clay,” Del Potro said. “I had my chances today, but I couldn't play my best because of him. His game is too good for me.”
Nadal has reached an unprecedented 11thfinal here and has become the second man in the Open era to reach 11 finals at the same Grand Slam event – equalling Roger Federer who has reached 11 Wimbledon finals.
Whatever happens in Sunday’s final the history books are being re-written, will it be an extraordinary No 11 for Nadal or No 1 for the Austrian, or any Austrian for that matter?