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French Open 2018, Men's Singles Semifinal: Rafael Nadal takes on Juan Martin Del Potro; Dominic Thiem faces Marco Cecchinato

Sohinee Basu
ANALYST
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157   //    08 Jun 2018, 16:14 IST

TOPSHOT-TENNIS-FRA-OPEN-MEN
Can Nadal make it to the finals and realize his La Undecima dream?

The season's second Grand Slam has been going on in full swing spread out over the dusty clay courts of Roland Garros. History is patiently waiting to be written all over as the remaining four men battle it out for the last two spots that will book them a ticket to the mouth-watering finals. There has been quite a few shock exits as well as expected wins from the players.

With Roger Federer sitting out the clay season, it's time for Rafael Nadal to exhibit his finesse on the clay courts he has always dominated. Standing dangerously close and bearing the potential to topple the Spaniard from realizing his La Undecima dream is the Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who has rediscovered himself on clay once again.

Playing out the first semi-final will be seventh seed Dominic Thiem who will appear in his third straight semi-final in Paris against the gutsy 72nd-ranked Italian Marco Cecchinato, who will hope to continue his dream run having beaten former champion Novak Djokovic in the last round.

Novak Djokovic, who made a comeback after nursing an injury had high hopes from this Grand Slam too but oddly succumbed to the Italian, Marco Cecchinato, who managed to topple three more seeded players much to everyone's surprise and has landed himself in a semi-final clash against crowd favourite Thiem.

For the first semi-final up on Court Philippe Chatrier, Thiem seems to be having the obvious upper hand and easily has better chances at winning against the young Cecchinato, who has managed to register his first Grand Slam win in the French Open only. The Austrian has reached the semi-final in Paris for the third year in a row and he will fancy his chances of making a first Grand Slam final having been beaten by the top seed at this stage in each of the last two years.

The number 7 seeded Austrian has dropped a few sets along the way this year, but looked in excellent form in bundling off a weary number 2 seed Alexander Zverev in the last round for the loss of just seven games. 25-year-old Thiem should win this in all probability because he has the better Grand Slam experience. Although Cecchinato, is on a dream run and is looking to get a seat in the finals, he really shouldn't be a big threat to the big-serving Austrian.

However, it's the second semi-final that is likely to grab more eyeballs. Without an iota of surprise, we have been ushered into another semi-final at Roland Garros that will have Rafael Nadal as the one true constant. As comical it might sound, Rafa really is the constant vigil of the clay courts whilst the other players and their spots keep shuffling around. Nadal truly knows how to hold down his fort with an unwavering form.

En route to the semis, the Spaniard only dropped a single set to Diego Schwartzman, the rest of the tournament has been a breeze for him. Del Potro, on the other hand, has a career peppered with injuries and it's so wonderful to find him rediscovering himself on clay once again as he qualified for the semis for the first time after defeating Marin Cilic for the eighth consecutive time. T

he fifth-seeded Argentine is back to the semi-finals in Paris for the first time since 2009, which is the year he went on to win the US Open for his only major title. By comparison, Nadal has won 16 majors and obviously knows the nuances of the clay court better than anybody in the circuit today.

Although Del Potro has beaten Nadal five times, Nadal won their last encounter and leads 9-5 overall head-to-head. However, Del Potro is, undoubtedly, an obstacle in Nadal's way for he has looked one of the biggest threats to Nadal's domination this year, with his pulverising forehand dismantling everyone in his path on the Parisian clay. The 29-year-old has also won his last two out of three matches against Nadal. So it won't really be a cakewalk for either of them and it'll be a tight match.

Today's evening clashes will create history no matter what. The stakes are high for Nadal who is eyeing his 11th title at Roland Garros. Marco Cecchinato is also looking to tread on new grounds and continue his dream run into a Grand Slam final. Del Potro, is feeling better than ever and his body and mind are in great shape and he is raring to go. Dominic Thiem hasn't really extinguished his energy an is looking to make it big by getting a ticket to the finals which promise to be mouth-watering no matter what.

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Sohinee Basu
ANALYST
I am this teeny-tiny adult kid with a horrible obsession of poetry and words. It will be too less to say that I love everything about tennis and a certain Roger Federer also! I love everything from the smell of old books to the thrill of watching tight matches!
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