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12 June 2018, 11:36 | Charlene Valdez
Rafa Nadal is a set down
"Even if it was 6-3 6-4, it was an uncomfortable match for me". After holding there, Nadal broke del Potro to take that set and was on his way, taking 14 of the last 17 games.
On Wednesday, Schwartzman had come on court swinging and he succeeded in spraying winning shots off both wings.
Nadal was far from his usual impeccable self on red clay, too.
Croatian Cilic played an bad game when serving for the set, making four unforced errors, but he was gifted another chance to serve it out after breaking Del Potro again and levelled the match at the second time of asking.
Sharapova beat the Spaniard in three sets at the tournament in 2014.
"I saved two set points and luckily I won it". It was an overnight opportunity to the defending champion to review his game tactics.
If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal, 32, finally calls it a day.
This was not the case during the first two tight sets between the Thiem and Cecchinato.
"It's tough to speak now", said an emotional Del Potro.
Nadal, by contrast, had not had a sniff on Del Potro's serve until, at 5-4, two swishes of his forehand forced two set points, the second of which he converted when the Argentinian netted.
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.
Nadal reached 40-30 with a drive volley victor but got deuced on an over-rule by the chair umpire.
And the only man to beat Nadal on clay a year ago was Thiem.
He got nervous again, however, in the last game, needing four match points to secure victory.
By contrast, Thiem will do well to protect his own serve against a seasoned victor who has become expert at earning breaks.
While everyone can still respect him for adapting to a tall man's sport, and it's hard not to notice it when he's facing the giants of the game, his stature shouldn't be his leading narrative any longer.
Nadal hit a floater that was possibly headed wide, yet Schwartzman attempted a volley that missed. He required two more opportunities before taking the game that lasted nearly nine minutes.
Nadal is now just the second man to reach 11 finals at the same Slam‚ equalling Roger Federer's mark at Wimbledon.
But Thiem showed resilience in getting two break points on Nadal's serve. So there are not 10 more chances to keep playing here.
On his next match point, Nadal made a first serve that sent Schwartzman wide to the felt and followed with a forehand victor into the open court.
His opponent Friday will be Juan Martin del Potro, who got choked up after waiting almost a decade to return to the final four in Paris - and dealing with three wrist operations in the interim.
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