Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Sport | By Gary Shelton

French Open 2018, men's final

French Open 2018, men's final

World 72 Cecchinato had knocked out three seeded players to reach the semi-finals, including 12-time major victor Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Only 24, and still in the ATP players' characteristic erratic phase, it was evident from his reactions that he felt the pressure of being the favourite. 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 previous year. Only two players have managed to beat him so far at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament - Robin Soldering in the fourth round of the 2009 edition and Novak Djokovic in the quarter-final of 2015 edition.

Cecchinato had never won a grand slam match until the French Open.

The world No. 8 made history of his own Friday, becoming the second Austrian male to advance to a grand slam final after the hard-nosed 1995 French Open champion, Thomas Muster.

But despite the straight-sets win, it wasn't a cakewalk for the Austrian.

"It was not a very nice feeling", Thiem said.

Thiem then held his serve at love for a 2-0 lead.

However, he reclaimed the break in the eighth game before edging ahead to 5-4.

Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again.

The second set turned into a tight tactical battle with neither able to break serve.

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

But Checchinato could not quite keep up with Thiem and his big baseline game. "The quarterfinal between Zverev and Thiem foretells the future as I see both these players as future champions", Becker added. There were long rallies, lots of running, cleverly executed crosscourt shots, even smarter drops.

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. Take his run in this clay season for instance. "If Nadal gives him opportunities, he should be confident enough to go for the kill", Becker pointed out.

In Sunday's final, Thiem will face either No. 1 Nadal or No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro.

The victor of 10 French, three US Open, two Wimbledon and one Australian Open titles has won 87 of his 89 matches at the French.

To date, head-to-head, Thiem has served more aces on six out of the nine occasions they have met, with two ties and Nadal bettering Thiem in this department for the first time in Madrid when they last played. By winning it all, every three out of four times (or even better), they have inarguably dominated the surface during the peaks of their powers. The 12-10 win in the tiebreak is what decided the match. "Therefore, Thiem in four".

However, the 25-year-old failed to take the three sets points he fashioned and was brutally punished after going two sets down, with two breaks for Thiem allowing him to secure the third set in just 28 minutes.

Thiem clinically snuffed out Marco Cecchinato's Roland Garros fairytale in their semi-final, grinding the Italian into the famed red clay - but not without a fight.

But an 85-2 win-loss record like Nadal's in Paris is not something easy to shake. For sure he is beatable, but you have to have the level, and Dominic has the level and you have to play the flawless match and the most important thing is you can't miss the occasions that you have.

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