Rafael Nadal is one win away from claiming a 10th Roland Garros title after he cruised into his 10th final in Paris with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 success over sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem on Friday to set up a showdown with Stan Wawrinka.
Nadal is just the third man in history to make 10 appearances in the final at one Grand Slam event after Bill Tilden (10 US Open finals) and Roger Federer (10 Wimbledon finals) and Sunday will be his 22nd appearance in a major final.
Thiem and Nadal were facing off in a fourth consecutive tournament and entered the contest leading the tour in most number of match wins on clay this season (22).
And while many expected the 23-year-old Austrian to be a tough test for Nadal, who lost to Thiem in Rome two weeks ahead of the tournament – the semi-final was by no means a tight affair.
“I think to play Rafa on clay in French Open in a final is probably the biggest challenge you can have in tennis. He’s the best player ever on clay. As you say, he’s going for his 10th Roland Garros, so it’s something really impressive, something tough,” said Wawrinka.
“It’s for sure gonna be really difficult. But again, in the end of the day, it’s the final. The pressure is on both players. No one go on the court thinking he has no pressure. We both want to win the title, and we both gonna give it all on the court.”
Thiem broke Nadal in the opening game of the match but the Spaniard responded immediately. Nadal ran away with the set in 45 minutes but found himself in trouble early in the second, facing two break points in his first service game.
Nadal saved both and got an opportunity of his own to break the following game thanks to some brilliant footwork and a forehand winner. The nine-time champion got the break to inch ahead. He was stepping inside the court, dictating with his renowned topspin forehand.
The Mallorcan leapt to a two-sets-to-one lead and broke three times to move ahead 5-0 in the third. Despite missing an overhead to start the sixth game and facing a break point, Nadal closed out the match, in two hours and seven minutes to put himself in a position to fight for a 15th Grand Slam title.
Nadal is yet to drop a set this fortnight, and is 15-3 against Wawrinka head-to-head (5-1 on clay).
“It’s true I have been playing a great event, but Stan is playing unbelievable. It’s going to be a very, very tough final. I watched his match, he’s hitting the ball really hard,” Nadal told Cedric Pioline on court.