In Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal faces a new French Open challenge

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015

Rafael Nadal lost his first set at Roland Garros since 2015

Nadal beat Del Potro in the semifinals of last year's U.S. Open and holds nine previous triumphs over the world No. 6, and he says he is now thriving off the pressure placed upon him to defend his French Open crown for an 11th Roland Garros success.

But if you think it's going to be a simple Sunday stroll for Nadal to get this 11th French Open title, consider that his opponent is a fitting foe on the final stage.

The 10-time Roland Garros champion was second-best in the first set, but the powerful Del Potro was unable to claim a solitary break as he was thrashed 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 on a glorious Friday in Paris.

The Argentine won the first two points to round off the first set and outlasted his Croatian opposite in lengthy rallies to win in three hours and 50 minutes.

However, it was Del Potro who was in the ascendancy in the rallies in the first set.

Plenty have gone in with sound tactical plans against the 16-times Grand Slam champion in Paris but when the forehand bombardment begins, the best-laid plans usually fall apart as was the case in Friday's semi-final when Nadal thrashed Juan Martin del Potro who many thought posed a credible threat. The second was the No. 6 player in the world, Juan Martin del Potro, because facing Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros is about a hard a task as sport has to offer.

Former Roland Garros junior champion Cilic, bidding to reach the semi-finals for the first time after falling in the last eight 12 months ago, kept his nose in front in the fourth. Del Potro has achieved great victories this year. 'I can't give him the game.

Nadal has already established himself as one of the five greatest men's tennis players in history.

"I will focus on myself, like I did every match here".

"I know I have to give a little more than I have given until now in this tournament".

His 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory means he has now reached his 24th Grand Slam final and equals Roger Federer's record for most finals at a single major - Federer's coming at Wimbledon.

While we have an edge here, I appreciate that backing a heavy odds-on shot isn't most people's cup of tea, so the game handicap should be a viable proposition.

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. They came from non-ATP level matches, which is where the vast majority of tennis' corruption takes place, but corrupt behavior at the lower levels becomes a problem when those players graduate to the big time. I was playing better at the beginning of the match.

In Madrid, Thiem thrived in the quicker, higher altitude conditions to win their quarter-final in straight sets.

Thiem withstood huge challenge from Italian underdog Marco Cecchinato in the first two sets of Friday's semifinal, winning 7-5 and 7-6 (10) respectively, before easing through the third set 6-1. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert. "I don't want anyone to think that it's a routine".

'I will try everything that my plan also going to work out a little bit here and not only in Madrid or in Rome.

"It was not a very nice feeling", Thiem told the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd afterward.

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