French Open glance: Nadal taking on Thiem in final | Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

The Austrian also came out on top on clay in three sets in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires in 2016.

"The first set was very hard, with too many chances for Juan Martin", Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal held serve in the opening game against Juan Martin del Potro in their French Open semifinal.

Becker, however, did not rule out the possibility of a win for Nadal's opponent Thiem. It was cruise control for the 10-time Roland Garros champion from then on.

He has proved that he is a major threat to Nadal in best-of-three-set matches on clay, beating him three times, most recently in straight sets in the quarterfinals of the Masters 1000 event in Madrid this year.

"If I had won the second set, I think it would have been a totally different third set", he explained.

Of the 31 sets they've had available to play in their matches, they've used only 21, or 67%, only once requiring more than the bare minimum of sets.

That's only €100,000 more - just a 4.5 per cent rise - than last year's champions Rafael Nadal and Jelena Ostapenko collected. But yes it happened in the last two matches. "That's the only way for me to approach the tough moments".

What went through Nadal's mind right then?

Caty McNally and Cori Gauff will meet in an all-American girls' final at the French Open after winning their semifinals. "I'll pretend that I'm angry but it's a tactic".

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.

Dominic Thiem celebrates his semifinal victory over Marco Cecchinato at the French Open on June 8.
Matthew Stockman  
Getty Images
Dominic Thiem celebrates his semifinal victory over Marco Cecchinato at the French Open on June 8. Matthew Stockman Getty Images

Thiem was the aggressor early on and he broke in the first game before holding to love for a 2-0 lead.

The men's showpiece match between Nadal and Thiem takes place on Court Philippe-Chatrier and starts at 2pm (UK time). As odd as it seems, Thiem played one match against Thomas Muster, who won the title here in 1995 when in his pomp.

The victor will play either seventh seed Dominic Thiem, who appears in his third straight semi-final in Paris or Italian Marco Cecchinato, who will hope to continue his dream run having beaten former champion Novak Djokovic in the last round.

Mallorca's finest: Nadal and Moya.

It is nice to get the two best clay courters possible in Sunday's final. But now I am so happy.

"If I want to beat him", Thiem said, "I have to play that way". You need to clinch that first set because he is coming out nervous.

"Same against Schwartzman, where Rafa was saved a bit by the rain". If the exchange reflects this when liquidity increases, those odds should be laid: Thiem is likely to serve more aces, but it's also likely that we won't see many aces at all, and Thiem is no certainty to easily outscore Nadal in that department. If you do, it's finished.

The Spaniard, who has only lost twice in 87 matches at Roland Garros, beat the Argentine in just over two hours.

Last year, Nadal completed a "Decima" in Paris, lifting the trophy without dropping a set and losing just 35 games in total. He missed the tournament every year from 2013-16 because of injuries, including three operations on his left wrist.

The young Austrian wasted no time and a high arcing lob dropped kindly for a 3-0 lead before another kind bounce helped him seal the match with a forehand victor.

  • Julie Sanders