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13 June 2018, 02:05 | Pamela Mathis
Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his semifinal match against Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro. Reuters
Cecchinato had never won a Grand Slam match before this year's Roland Garros but made the semis with a string of stunning wins.He put out seeded players Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin before the seismic shock of knocking out 2016 champion Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
The first Austrian to reach a grand slam final since Thomas Muster triumphed here in 1995, Thiem struggled to fend off the world No.72 before easing to a 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1 success.
Nadal held for 5-4, and Thiem basically handed over the next game - and the set - with four mistakes. "Good tactics and mentality in the first set".
Relentless Nadal broke to love at the start of the third, and as he moved on to match point an exhausted Del Potro paused for breath, bent double, as if he had been punched in the stomach.
"I thought that after nine years I will play a different one, not Rafa or Roger", he added.
"You have to be focussed and keep your passion for the game". "Still, I know how to play against him".
Thiem is the only man to beat Nadal on clay in the last two seasons - in Madrid this year and Rome in 2017.
Del Potro struck 31 winners and 19 aces, compared to Cilic's 53 and 18, respectively.
Both players contributed to an entertaining start, but Thiem quickly took control, breaking through in the opening game and then comfortably holding easily.
Nadal is 49-0 in all other clay-court contests over the past two seasons.
After a sticky first set in which Del Potro's powerful groundstrokes and heavy serve earned the Argentine several chances to forge ahead, Nadal seized control with as devastating a display as he has ever produced on Philippe Chatrier court.
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Del Potro had required treatment on a hip problem suffered early in the first set and he visibly wilted in the second, raising his arms in mock celebration when he won a solitary game while already 5-0 behind.
However, Nadal has won both their clashes at Roland Garros - in 2014 and in last year's semi-finals by a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 margin.
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"It's tough to speak now", said an emotional Del Potro.
Nadal defeated del Potro in four sets the last they met - US Open 2017 semi-final. "I don't have words to explain what this means to me and my team".
But Thiem‚ 24‚ was too strong and now believes he has a particularly powerful weapon on his side for the final - breakfast.
(My) level is very good at the moment (and) I am very, very happy.
Thiem improved on serve during the second set, facing zero break points, but he was not able to seize on any of the three break points as the set went to the tie break.
"Not a very nice feeling", Thiem said.
Dominic Thiem reached his first Grand Slam final and ended the surprising French Open run of 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy. In Wimbledon I lost against (Novak) Djokovic.
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