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Rediff.com  » Sports » PHOTOS: Nadal crushes Thiem to set up Wawrinka showdown

PHOTOS: Nadal crushes Thiem to set up Wawrinka showdown

Last updated on: June 10, 2017 01:05 IST

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his semi final match against Dominic Thiem. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal moved to within one victory of 'La Decima' at the French Open as he demolished rising Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 with a daunting show of force in Friday's semi-final.

The 31-year-old Spaniard, ready to reclaim his Roland Garros crown after a two-year hiatus, dispatched the sixth seed in little more than two hours and is on the verge of becoming the first player to win the same grand slam tournament 10 times.

He faces Swiss Stan Wawrinka in Sunday's showpiece match.

Thiem, like fourth seed Nadal, had reached the semi-final without dropping a set and had trounced Serbian defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

But after starting brightly in the early evening sunshine his challenge disappeared into the encroaching shadows on Court Philippe Chatrier -- an arena on which Nadal has never lost a semi-final or final since his debut in 2005.

Nadal has dropped only 29 games to reach the final -- surpassing his previous best of 35 in 2012 and only two more than Bjorn Borg's record set in 1978.

Swedish great Borg might still hold that mark but Nadal has long since left the six-times French Open champion behind in the Roland Garros record books.

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Rafael Nadal in action. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

After Nadal's limp exit to Djokovic in 2015 and the wrist injury that cut short his challenge last year, the Spanish claycourt king looks hungrier than ever to extend his domination on the clay surface where he has no rival.

Third seed Wawrinka's earlier epic five-set battle against Andy Murray had delayed Nadal's appearance until nearly 6pm local time and there was a sense of "after the Lord Mayor's show" as the day's second semi-final began.

A break for Thiem in the opening game quickly concentrated minds -- although any prospect of a tussle to match the drama of the day's first instalment did not last long as Nadal recovered with two breaks of his own to take the opening set.

Thiem, whose elegant single-handed backhand had little effect throughout the contest, had break points early in the second set but Nadal slammed the door shut.

The Spaniard, whose only defeat on the red dirt this year came against Thiem in Rome, then broke with a clubbing forehand and lost only three more points on serve as he wrapped up the second set.

Thiem's hopes of emulating compatriot Thomas Muster's French title in 1995, were over in a flash as Nadal raced through the third set in 28 one-sided minutes.

Stan Wawrinka

Image: Stan Wawrinka celebrates winning his semi-final match against Andy Murray. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Stan Wawrinka subjected Andy Murray to a barrage of body blows as he broke down the Briton's formidable defences to reach the French Open final, twice coming from a set down to win a high-octane contest 6-7(6), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1.

The Swiss 2015 champion hit a staggering 87 winners as he avenged last year's semi-final defeat by the world number one to set up a final against nine-times champion Rafa Nadal.

Murray absorbed everything Wawrinka threw at him for most of the four hour and 34 minute contest but after winning a tense fourth set, Wawrinka steamed ahead in the decider as the Briton's armour was finally pierced.

The third seed, at 32 the oldest man to reach the Roland Garros final since Niki Pilic finished runner-up in 1973, was long frustrated by Murray but never lost faith despite seeing his opponent rally back from a break down in the first and third sets.

"There are two ways of seeing things and I chose to be positive, knowing that I was dominating," said Wawrinka, who has won the three grand slam finals he has played.

Stan Wawrinka

Image: Stan Wawrinka in action during his semi-final match against Andy Murray. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Murray, who arrived in Paris on the back of a woeful claycourt season, said he could take a lot of positives from his run to the semis.

"I'm proud of the tournament I had. I did well considering. I was one tiebreak away from getting to the final," said the Scot, who was runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year.

"When I came here I was really struggling. I turned my form around really well and ended up having a good tournament."

Murray, who like Wawrinka owns three Grand Slam titles, made only one unforced error in the first seven games. He suffered a bit of a meltdown in the eighth, though, and Wawrinka pounced to steal his serve.

On his second opportunity, the Swiss punished Murray for his ill-timed rush to the net with a crosscourt forehand passing shot.

Stan Wawrinka

Image: Stan Wawrinka in action. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Murray broke straight back to eventually force a tiebreak that featured a couple of blazing exchanges that would be in the running for the 'point of the tournament'.

After some fast-paced exchanges at the net, Wawrinka moved to set point with a backhand volley but dinked a routine backhand into the net as Murray levelled for 6-6.

On the following point, the Scot was forced to defend again and he turned the rally around with a jaw-dropping defensive lob before finishing the point with a forehand winner.

The Swiss netted a forehand return as Murray bagged the opening set.

Wawrinka did not dwell on that setback and earned three break points in the seventh game of the second set, converting the first with a trademark backhand winner down the line.

Murray could not hold his following service game either, and a perfectly-hit inside-out forehand gave Wawrinka the second set.

Andy Murray

Image: Andy Murray. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

A third consecutive break for Wawrinka earned him a 2-0 lead in the third set as Murray's frustration grew. He regained his composure to dictate the points and break back, but Wawrinka further increased the pressure to break again for 4-2.

Murray was back again thanks to a whizzing backhand winner, and he pulled off a decisive break for 6-5, holding to take the lead in the match when Wawrinka netted a backhand.

There were no break points in the fourth set, but Wawrinka was simply too good in the tiebreak, taking it with a powerful forehand service return.

The decider flashed by in just half an hour as Wawrinka levelled his grand slam win-loss record against Murray to 3-3 with yet another backhand winner.

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