Del Potro powers past Cilic to set up Rafa clash

Rafael Nadal has lost his first set at the French Open since 2015

GETTY IMAGES Rafael Nadal has lost his first set at the French Open since 2015

Juan Martin del Potro believes it's virtually impossible to defeat Rafael Nadal on clay and backed the Spaniard to claim an 11th French Open title in Sunday's final against Dominic Thiem.

Cecchinato's bid to become the spoiler's spoiler ended, for all intents and purposes, when he was unable to convert any of three set points in an entertaining second-set tiebreaker that was the middle chapter of Thiem's 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 win.

The other men's semi-final is No. 7 Dominic Thiem of Austria against 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy, who never won a Grand Slam match until last week and was cleared of a match-fixing charge on a technicality in 2016.

"The big key was the second set", he said.

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The semi final victory over Juan Martin del Potro was marred by the Argentine needing to request his physiotherapist come onto the court to evaluate a hip injury.

Rafael Nadal battled back from a set down to beat Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in their rain-interrupted French Open quarterfinal on Thursday, edging closer to an 11th title in Paris. He played some awesome aggressive tennis to get through Djokovic in the quarters, just like he played wonderful aggressive tennis to get to the quarters.

"He was playing great, and I was playing too defensive". Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal in two years at clay and it'll be interesting how he handles the challenge this time.

Nadal, who is only the second man to reach 11 finals at one Grand Slam after Roger Federer achieved the same feat at Wimbledon, said: "The first set was very hard, there were lots of opportunities for Del Potro and I was perhaps a little lucky to win it". For Nadal, it would expand an already outrageously full trophy case.

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Del Potro missed another chance at 2-0 in the second set and from that point there was only going to be one victor.

Nadal tightened his grip, going to 5-1 on another double break in the third set and sealed the match when Del Potro hit a backhand long. Nadal also hopes to make his fourth grand slam final appearance since previous year. Del Potro won 70 percent of his total service points and gave himself 13 break chances. "It was 6-4 and the one thing I wanted to do was win the set - and I missed an easy volley at one moment which was not a nice feeling". "I felt that I was playing a little bit under more stress than usual, and he was able to take control of the point too many times", Nadal said about the match's start.

The drop shots that helped account for Djokovic kept Thiem on his toes throughout, but once the pivotal tie-break went the seventh seed's way Cecchinato's unlikely run was all but over.

Thiem weathered three set points for Cecchinato, at 7-6, 9-8 and 10-9. Thiem got to 10-all with a drop shot of his own.

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