Del Potro said resuming a match at 5-5 in a tiebreak with his serve to come had been a unusual situation but his aim was true and he moved 6-5 ahead before his cagey backhand slice induced a poor forehand error by Cilic.
"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said of Nadal.
"I am very happy to be back in the final here at Roland Garros". He beat me in Madrid and he has incredible power. That streak began after Thiem beat him in Rome a year ago.
The pivotal part of the match was the second-set tiebreaker in which both men played superbly - and both had chances to end it. Thiem went ahead 6-3, but wasted three set points there, including a bad volley into the net at 6-4 that left him chewing ruefully on his left index finger. I believe I can be ready for that final.
A superb backhand crosscourt pass helped Nadal to make the crucial break and with it wrap up the opening set in 54 minutes, but what followed was a procession as Del Potro struggled to contain his frustrations at missing crucial chances to establish a lead.
Despite concerns over his fitness following a groin injury in Rome last month, del Potro has made the semi-final in Paris, his second after 2009 edition.
"Nadal, in Paris, best-of-five, is still half a class above Dominic, half a level too good", said Bresnik, who has coached Thiem since Thiem was 9.
Thiem, the No. 7 seed, reached his first Grand Slam final by ending the surprising run of 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy with a powerful 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 victory Friday.
The toughest task yet is yet to come though, when he will face someone who had reached the final at Roland Garros 10 times before and never lost.
"That was definitely the key to the match", Cecchinato said.
The 24-year-old Thiem, the youngest man since Nadal to reach the final in Paris, ended the contest on his first match point with a forehand victor.
"I am in a positive way always on court", Nadal said.
" If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that".
Nadal should be favourite, of course - his experience of the big stage and pre-eminence at the French Open presents a significant obstacle for his young opponent to overcome - but it's important not to overstate Nadal's dominance. The No. 1 men's tennis player in the world cruised on Friday - looking vintage in domination -, who entered the French Open semis as No. 6 player in the ATP World Tour rankings. Nadal is 2-0 against Thiem at the French Open.
Thiem, who swept past second seed Alexander Zverev in the last-eight, broke the Italian in the first game. The Austrian looked very assured against Alexander Zverev as well as Cecchinato.
Leading the tiebreak 6-3, he was powerless as Cecchinato claimed the following four points to earn the first of three set points.
The second set turned into a tight tactical battle with neither able to break serve.
His record at Roland Garros now stands at 85 wins and two defeats.
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