Rafael Nadal reaches record 11th French Open final

Diego Schwartzman

GETTYDiego Schwartzman provided Nadal with a stern test early on in their clash

Moya admits that nerves accounted for Nadal losing the opening set against Diego Schwartzman in the quarter-finals on Wednesday - before rain suspended play until the following day - as well as the tight opening set the world No. 1 contested against Juan Martin del Potro in Friday's semis.

Once Nadal stole the opener with a break in the 10th game, it was one-way traffic as he left Del Potro trailing in a cloud of Parisian clay dust to set up a final against Dominic Thiem.

It was swift and brutal.

"I think that was my chance of the match", del Potro said of the break points he held at 4-all in the opening set of Nadal's 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 blitz.

Croatian Cilic played an bad game when serving for the set, making four unforced errors, but he was gifted another chance to serve for the set after breaking Del Potro again and at the second time of asking he levelled the match. "And in my opinion, the match changed", Nadal said.

Nadal crushed de Potro in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

There have, however, appeared to be one or two chinks in his armour at Roland Garros this year. One of those victories came against Thiem in last year's semi-final and was, if anything, more comprehensive than this one.

It was a very different story when the contest resumed on Thursday in drier conditions as Nadal won 12 of the first 13 points before cruising into the last four.

Post match, this is what Nadal had to say: "The first set was very hard".

"We'll play Parchis [Spanish board game] and we'll let Rafa win so that he's happy before the final", joked Moya.

There's also the emotional toll to consider - after beating Cilic, Del Potro broke down in tears on court and said: "It's tough to speak now".

Del Potro gave 11 break point chances in 23 service games (0.48 per game) in this quarter-final, considerably higher than his 0.35 per game figure on clay in 2018.

However, having squandered one set point, he went in for a simple backhand volley victor only to dump it into the net.

"It was really important for my mind to know I could win against a great opponent".

Schwartzman started the match aggressively, hitting 20 winners as he became the first player since 2015 to take a set off Nadal in Paris.

"It's not easy. I've been on court just a couple of minutes ago".

The drop shots that helped account for Djokovic kept Thiem on his toes throughout, but once the pivotal tie-break went the seventh seed's way Cecchinato's unlikely run was all but over.

His Paris heroics have not exactly been the uplifting tale they should have been, though.

"Cristiano's body is 23 years old?" he questioned, "Then mine is forty-something".

Thiem, who was playing in his third successive French Open semi-final, admitted the second set had been a nervy encounter after needing five set points to get through it. "I think if I'm facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure".

Yes, I feel that I faced the match mentally as I had to.

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