On Sunday, Nadal will meet another former Roland Garros champion in third seed and 2015 titlist Stan Wawrinka, who prevailed past top seed Andy Murray 6-7(8), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 in four hours and 34 minutes.
Something will have to give during what should be a battle of a final. Wawrinka has never lost in a Grand Slam title match, having won all three of his earlier finals, including the 2015 Roland Garros title match against Novak Djokovic and the 2014 Australian Open final against Nadal.
But Nadal has never fallen in a Roland Garros final. The left-hander is a perfect 9-0. He also leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 15-3 and is 5-1 against Wawrinka on clay.
The 30-year-old Mallorca native has looked nearly unbeatable this fortnight as well. Through six matches, Nadal has yet to drop a set and has lost only 29 games – just two games off the Open Era record for fewest games dropped into a Grand Slam final.
Fewest games dropped in reaching a Grand Slam final*
1978 Roland Garros
2017 Roland Garros
1980 Roland Garros
2012 Roland Garros
(*In the current 128-draw format where all-matches played were best-of- 5-sets)
The Spaniard also should be fresh. Nadal has spent only about 10 hours on court. Wawrinka, meanwhile, has spent more than 15 hours on the red dirt.
No man or woman has won 10 titles at a Grand Slam in the Open Era, since April 1968. Nadal won Roland Garros crowns in 2005-08 and '10-14, and another Roland Garros title would give him a trio of “La Décimas” this season.
Thiem kept Nadal from winning the only other clay-court tournament the Spaniard contested, knocking out Nadal in the quarter-finals of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. But Thiem, who said he played one of his best matches that day, couldn't replicate his top level as Nadal rolled throughout their seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.
The Spaniard won the opening point with a backhand winner and pumped his fist after, showing how much a strong start meant to the nine-time
With Thiem serving at 1-2, Nadal pounced, bringing up three break points. But Thiem found success bludgeoning his forehand against Nadal, saving three break points with three consecutive forehands to get back to deuce. Nadal didn't go away, however, and broke two points later for a 3-1 lead.
For the match, Nadal would finish six for 10 on break points; Thiem went one for eight.
The Spaniard sought to stay away from Thiem's forehand and instead, target his one-handed backhand, the strategy Nadal focused on during their three earlier match-ups this season as well. On set point, Thiem smashed a backhand long to give Nadal the opener.
The 30-year-old Nadal started better in the second set as well, erasing two break points in his opening service game and breaking Thiem during an 11-point game to lead 2-1. Nadal would hold to love to take a two-set lead. He cruised in the third set as well, needing only 32 minutes to wrap up the last-four contest and improve to 22-3 in Grand Slam semi-finals.
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