Dominic Thiem fends off Marco Cecchinato challenge to make final

File Spain's Rafael Nadal

File Spain's Rafael Nadal

Nadal certainly lived up to his "King of Clay" nickname in Friday's semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro, crushing the sentimental favorite 6-4 6-1 6-2 to reach a record 11th final at Roland Garros.

Only two players have managed to beat Nadal at the French Open since he first bounded into Roland Garros in 2005 armed with a bulging left bicep, pirate trousers and a pulverising brand of claycourt tennis the like of which had not been seen before. Rafa Nadal goes in search of his 11th French Open title but don't count out Novak Djokovic - and what about the in-form Alexander Zverev?

Dominic Thiem ended Marco Cecchinato's French Open fairytale on Friday, reaching his first Grand Slam final with a 7-5, 7-6 (12/10), 6-1 victory.

Cecchinato, who up until this year's Roland Garros never got past the first round of a Grand Slam event, did not look the same in the third set, as he hit just one victor, committing eight unforced errors.

Rafael Nadal tries to win an 11th title at the French Open against Dominic Thiem, the only man to beat the top-ranked Spaniard on clay this season.

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. "He beat me in Madrid‚ he has big power so I have to be at my best and improve‚" said Nadal.

That began a run of four consecutive French Open triumphs through 2008. "Here with Federer. It's incredible for the tennis, the tennis world".

Breaking serve in the first game and bouncing to a 4-2 lead, Thiem controlled proceedings before Cecchinato reeled off the next three games with trademark flair and adventure.

But once a competive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal's "undecima" never looked in any doubt.

Ominously for Thiem, Nadal said: "My feeling is I have a very hard match against a player that is playing great. I believe I can be ready for that final".

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But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal's first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner. (My) level is very good at the moment (and) I am very, very happy.

Cecchinato had never won a Grand Slam match before this year's Roland Garros but made the semis with a string of stunning wins.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.

Up in the stands, Nadal's uncle Toni, his former coach, was nervous, too, "because I thought maybe we can have a problem", he said.

"That was not a nice feeling".

"If lost that tiebreak it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that". On the second, Thiem defeated Nadal 7-5, 6-3.

In the third game, Schwartzman missed three points in a row and then lost the game when he missed a drop attempt.

Cecchinato's career has been hindered by his links to a match-fixing scandal; he was banned for 18 months in 2016 before having the suspension overturned.

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