Nadal overcomes nerves to meet del Potro in French Open semi-finals

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Only Dominic Thiem stands in the way of Nadal and what seems an inevitable 11th Roland Garros title after a straight-sets pummelling of Juan Martin del Potro in the semi-final.

"We'll play Parchis [Spanish board game] and we'll let Rafa win so that he's happy before the final", joked Moya. Nadal has won six of those, two in finals in straight sets, and in both of their matches here, in the second round in 2014 and the semi-finals past year.

But the Austrian believes he is poised to break through, attempting to deflect pressure onto Nadal.

Well, the two do meet - in Sunday's final - but the market disagrees with my ratings, making Nadal the short favourite, at around [1.26].

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

"When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very risky".

"If he continues with this desire, he can win many more times, like Federer for Wimbledon, and other major tournaments", said Del Potro whose own Grand Slam collection remains stuck on one - his 2009 US Open breakthrough.

Coming back from two-sets down proved to be a challenge too far for a man not used to contesting best-of-five-set contests. So they always win the big tournaments.

Dominic Thiem of Austria volleys during the men's singles semi-final match against Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

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In this tournament, Nadal's only lost one set.

In 2011, Thiem beat his esteemed compatriot, 6-2, 6-3, in just over an hour on the indoor hardcourt of Vienna and still had to work hard to handle the heavy left-handed serve of the former world No 1.

Thiem was quick to respond, reeling off the next three games to take the set in 46 minutes.

At long last, Thiem converted his fifth set point when Cecchinato sent a forehand long.

Sealing the set, he still could not shrug off the underdog.

A fourth set point for Thiem was erased with - what else? - a drop shot by Cecchinato.

Del Potro had required treatment on a hip problem suffered early in the first set and he visibly wilted in the second, raising his arms in mock celebration when he won a solitary game while already 5-0 behind.

After a gruelling and protracted struggle, Thiem finally regained control when Cecchinato netted a tired forehand.

It would also mean that the sport's two greatest stars will have shared the last six majors, stretching back to Federer's 2017 Australian Open triumph.

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He'll need to be at his absolute best if he's to overcome Nadal on Sunday, and sustaining that level for three or more sets will be hard.

"Yeah, for me is special (to be in) semi (at) Roland Garros".

"For me, the level is very good at the moment".

"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.

On his favorite tennis court, Rafael Nadal was struggling on Friday.

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

By winning five matches at the highest level, the Sicilian will climb to No 18 next week and pocket $870,000 prizemoney - nearly doubling his career haul.

Only three times (once when he withdrew with an injury) has the Mallorcan not reached the French Open final since he first re-defined claycourt tennis in 2005 as a sleeveless warrior.

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