IMAGES from the French Open semi-finals played at Roland Garros on Friday
Ruthless Rafael Nadal punished Juan Martin del Potro for missed opportunities as he reached his 11th French Open final with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory on Friday.
Argentine Del Potro often had Nadal in trouble in a ferocious first set but paid heavily for failing to convert any of the six break points that came his way at 1-1 and 4-4.
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 a tough first set with opportunities for Juan Martin, I am fortunate that I won the first set and then I played more aggressively," Nadal, who equals Roger Federer's feat of reaching the final of a single Slam 11 times, said on court as fans chanted "Viva Espana".
"I am very happy to be back in the final here at Roland Garros. For me it's incredible.
"Thiem beat me in Madrid this year and played with big power. I know I have to play my best tennis to have a chance on Sunday. I believe I can be ready for that final."
Del Potro, playing in the semi-finals here for the first time since losing to Roger Federer in 2009, was 0-40 ahead on Nadal's serve at 1-1 but could not press home the break and worryingly appeared to hurt his hip at deuce in that game.
He did not look unduly affected though and his heavy groundstrokes took a toll on Nadal who rescued three more break points in the ninth game.
There was a sense of inevitability when Del Potro served at 4-5 and Nadal turned the screws to grab two set points at 15-40.
Del Potro saved one but a backhand error handed Nadal the set and he never took a backward glance after that.
Nadal crushed Del Potro's spirit with the intensity of his tennis in the second set, bounding 5-0 ahead before the Argentine registered a game to lift the spirits of his fans.
They tried their best to rouse their man in the third set but it was mission impossible as Nadal, clubbing the ball as if his life depended on it, churned out winners.
Austrian Dominic Thiem's rise to the top continued when he ended unheralded Italian Marco Cecchinato's run to reach the final of the French Open with a 7-5, 7-6(10), 6-1 win on Friday.
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.
The 24-year-old Thiem, the youngest man since Nadal to reach the final in Paris, ended the contest on his first match point with a forehand winner.
"Maybe the experience helped a little bit but the big key was the second set tiebreak because it was very close and I saved I think three set points," said Thiem.
"If lost that tiebreak it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that.
"Of course it's very important to have a good recovery now. I'll watch the other semi-final to study... my opponent and then it's full power on Sunday."
Cecchinato, who was suspended for match-fixing in 2016 before being cleared on a technicality, proved to be no pushover even though he had never won a match at a major before this year's French Open.
Thiem was the aggressor early on and he broke in the first game before holding to love for a 2-0 lead.
Cecchinato's nerves settled and the Sicilian unleashed some trademark backhand winners but Thiem had too much pace and power.
Cecchinato mixed it up with drop shots and gradually found his range to set up three break points at 4-3, which Thiem saved thanks to his strong first serve.
The Austrian netted an easy volley to give another opportunity to Cecchinato, which he seized, forcing his opponent to a backhand error.
Thiem sent Cecchinato scurrying around the court before breaking decisively for a 6-5 lead with a lovely forehand winner. He then held serve to bag the first set.
The second set turned into a tight tactical battle with neither able to break serve.
Thiem's massive forehand allowed him to race into a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak.
But the Austrian got nervous and wasted several set points, one of them when he shanked a routine volley at 6-4.
"When I missed that volley it wasn't a very nice feeling. It was destructive a little bit," Thiem, who won two claycourt tournaments this season, said.
His huge serve helped him to save set points too and he finally gained the upper hand to take a two-set lead.
Thiem went for the jugular in the third set and after racing to a 4-0 lead in double quick, he finished off the job to reach his first Grand Slam final.