French Open 2018, men's final

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015

Both men are at stages in their career that have previously been points of great decline for the greats who came before them.

"It was someone who made a loud [sound] before my serve, and I made [a] double fault", Del Potro said.

Nadal was broken three times and lost the opening set of his quarterfinal Wednesday against 11th-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina by a score of 6-4.

Paris - 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.

"I know how to play against him", he said, without elaborating. "I have a plan". That crucial early juncture altered the course of things, though.

"I'm really happy that I won this Grand Slam". But I get closer to them, just asking who was it? "I don't feel the pressure now in semifinals", Nadal said. If he wins the game, OK.

"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible".

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But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32.

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.

"He's an unbelievable player", Nadal said of Thiem.

"I think the big key was the second set because it was a close tie-break", said the 24-year-old. I was playing better at the beginning of the match. "His game is too good for me".

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.

"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened previous year, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters. 'If I want to beat him, I have to play that way like I did in Rome and in Madrid.

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.

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Injuries have hindered the Spaniard's Wimbledon campaigns in recent years but assuming he comes through Sunday's final unscathed he could yet mount an assault on the All England Club title he has won twice before.

Thiem is not only trying to overcome Nadal's massive psychological and experiential edge in his first-ever Grand Slam event final, but attempting to join an elite club of men who have elbowed their way into the Big Four's monopoly on major titles over the last 10 years. On the first date, Thiem defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-3.

"When (Thiem) is dominating the point, he is very unsafe". Last year, he took the trophy without dropping a set.

Thiem weathered three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9. Thiem has won 10 straight matches on clay court.

Thiem sent Cecchinato scurrying around the court before breaking decisively for a 6-5 lead with a lovely forehand victor.

"After that, my level dropped".

Thiem is the only man to defeat 10-time French Open champion Nadal on clay this season.

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