In full control of the French Open final, a rather familiar position for him, Rafael Nadal suddenly was anxious.
He saved three break points in his first service game but a wayward backhand ensured Nadal took the fourth. Cecchinato, who upset Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals after winning two pulsating tiebreaks, rallied and even held three set points prior to Thiem triumphing 12-10.
"And if he would have won the tiebreak, he would be full power, for sure, in the third set". So there was mild concern when Nadal called for the trainer midway through a game, requiring treatment on what looked like cramp in his hand.
The second set tie-break proved to be decisive as the Italian player squandered three set points, having recovered from a 6-3 deficit, reports Efe.
Nadal won the first set 6-4.
Thiem improved on serve during the second set, facing zero break points, but he was not able to seize on any of the three break points as the set went to the tie break.
Against del Potro, Nadal did not record a single ace and converted only 61 percent of his first serves. In the title match, she will face Sloane Stephens, who prevailed over Madison Keys, 6-2; 6-4 in 56 minutes in an all-American contest.
"I think that was my chance of the match", Del Potro said of the ninth game.
"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened past year, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters.
The No. 1-ranked Nadal compiled a 35-20 edge in winners while making only 19 unforced errors Friday.More news: North Korea-US summit scheduled for morning of June 12: White House
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Seventh seed Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the past two years, and he claimed he had a plan to thwart the Spaniard in Paris.
By contrast, Thiem was competing in his maiden major final and although he matched his illustrious opponent for large parts of the opening set, he crumbled at the crunch and never really regained his poise.
"Tough moment", Nadal would say later.
What went through Nadal's mind right then?
Ten times he has lifted La Coupe des Mousquetaires and the "King of Clay" has looked as hungry as ever to retain his crown during yet another dominant run to an unprecedented 11th title in the French capital.
The final battle between No. 7 seed Thiem and Nadal will take place on Sunday, June 10th.
A few hours earlier, as Nadal and Thiem warmed up, the booming voice of the announcer at Court Philippe Chatrier detailed the bona fides of both.
Nadal did not have almost as hard a time against the fifth-seeded del Potro.
And the underdog soon faded as Thiem kicked on, racing to two swift breaks in the third and rescuing two break points to serve out the match in style.
The No. 6-seeded pairing from the Czech Republic beat Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday.
The women's doubles final is also Sunday.