French Open 2018: Rafael Nadal Eyes 11th Title As Clock Ticks

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015

"For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible", Nadal said after breezing past Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in Friday's semi-finals in what was his 85th win in Paris against just two defeats. For me it's incredible. He beat me in Madrid this year and he has great power.

And he will fancy his chances, having been the second best clay-court player in the world for the last two seasons behind Nadal, whom he has beaten three times, most recently in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last month.

'I hope to be ready to do it.

Rafael Nadal could take revenge on Dominic Thiem in men's singles final of the 2018 French Open, while Chinese player Yang Zhaoxuan and her partner Chan Hao-Ching of Chinese Taipei failed to secure their spots in women's doubles final in Paris on Friday.

Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, claimed his 85th win in Paris against just two losses after weathering a big-hitting opening from 2009 US Open victor Del Potro to win 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

Cecchinato, the world number 72, played fearlessly and used his whole arsenal of claycourt weapons, but he came up short against the only player to beat Nadal on his favourite surface this season.

So if anyone could head into the French Open final with even the slightest reason to think there's a chance of preventing Nadal from winning a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros, it is his opponent Sunday. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert.

For his hard work, Del Potro gets a semifinal showdown with Rafael Nadal on Friday.

Nadal saved three break points at 1-all in the opening set and another three at 4-all. He then went on to beat Nadal in straight sets in Madrid and seemed on course for a first Masters title before collapsing to Alexander Zverev in the finals and then losing to Fabio Fognini in the first round of the next Masters in Rome. I made a few errors and he played well.

"It was not a very nice feeling", Thiem said. Thiem has split his last 10 final appearances and is 8-5 in career final appearances on clay.

While Thiem faces an nearly impossible task on Sunday, Nadal was taking nothing for granted against the man who beat him in Madrid. But I knew that Rafa was going to play from worse to better and, if I was not able to win the first set, the match would be as it was.

"He's a big favorite against anybody", Thiem said of Nadal.

Del Potro is playing in the French Open semifinals for the first time in nine years.

Such is his motivation to win today, that the task facing Austrian 24-year-old Thiem was described as "almost impossible" by Del Potro, who believes that Nadal is playing better than he has for years. "I couldn't make it", del Potro said. Basically, it's typical Nadal in the French Open.

In 2016, Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality.

Thiem battled to a 7-5 7-6 and then walloped a clearly dejected Cecchinato 6-1 in the third to qualify for the final after making the semi-final on three consecutive occasions.

Asked if he felt in "steamroller mode" heading into the final, Nadal said: "I can't tell you, I'm just in the finals".

The second-set tiebreaker turned out to be critical and, although the 24-year-old botched a straightforward backhand volley with a 6-4 lead that would have won him the set, he did well to shrug that off and finally closed out the set on his fifth set point.

"That was definitely the key", Cecchinato said.

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