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It was the 24-year-old Austrian’s third consecutive appearance in the final four at Roland Garros, after losses to eventual champions Djokovic in 2016 and Nadal in 2017.
“I am a human person”, Nadal said following his 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 victory.
Fitness permitting, Nadal is arguably the most in-form player in world tennis at the present moment and his record at Roland Garros is barely believable.
“It was a tough first set with opportunities for Juan Martin, I am fortunate that I won the first set and then I played more aggressively”, Nadal, who equals Roger Federer’s feat of reaching the final of a single Slam 11 times, said on court as fans chanted “Viva Espana”.
Although he came to life again in this tournament, he lost to the man from nowhere, Marco Cecchinato, ranked 72 in the world, in a 22-minute tie-break that catapulted the Italian into the semi-finals, where he ran out of steam against Thiem on Friday.
“Of course there is pressure especially in grand slam finals, because I went a very long way now and I don’t want to lose the finals”, he said.
Muguruza, the 2016 victor in Paris and reigning Wimbledon champion, has been unruffled and made the last-eight when Lesia Tsurenko retired after just two games of their last-16 clash.
Nadal claimed his sixth French Open to equal the record of Borg, also taking his Slam total into double figures at 10. The Spaniard also won the title without losing a set, becoming the third man to do so in the Open era after Ilie Nastase and Borg.
“The first set was very hard, there were lots of opportunities for Juan Martin del Potro and I was perhaps a little lucky to win it”, Nadal said afterwards.
“Before it I was not opening the court with the backhand”. “His game is too good for me”.
But it took Muguruza quite a while to get going against Halep, who managed to keep sending ball after ball back over the net.
“I had the feeling he had control of the point too many times to have the chance to be successful”.
The Spaniard was a set and a break down on Thursday morning before he regrouped and blazed through the last two sets on Friday morning (AEST) in a last-eight showdown played over two days due to rain. A day later, it was rarely used as effectively.
Del Potro edged the early exchanges even though the scoreboard showed parity, testing Nadal on his service games and earning six break points as a result.
Nadal raised his level when it mattered much and fended off three break points in the eighth game. He then held serve to bag the first set. His last few seasons have been marked by inconsistency and injury, and Diego Schwartzman demonstrated that there are weaknesses to be exploited in Nadal’s game. On the first date, Thiem defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-3. He likes the conditions more here than in Madrid. “So it was good for me that I won it”. “You can’t always find the excuses or positive things about the external things”, he said.
His opponent Friday will be Juan Martin del Potro, who got choked up after waiting almost a decade to return to the final four in Paris – and dealing with three wrist operations in the interim.
Cecchinato gained his first lead at 5-4 on a quickfire serve but Thiem rallied back with a timely drop shot to take the first set. She led Jelena Ostapenko by a set and 3-0 in last year’s final at Roland Garros.
“It is nearly impossible to beat Rafa”, said Del Potro who had his chances but failed to convert any of his seven break points before his challenge petered out into tired hopelessness.
“It was someone who made a loud noise before my serve”, del Potro said. I have had three surgeries on my left wrist and I was close to quitting.
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