PARIS – Ruthless Rafael Nadal punished Juan Martin del Potro for missed opportunities as he reached his 11th French Open final with a 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory on Friday.
Argentine Del Potro often had Nadal in trouble in a ferocious first set but paid heavily for failing to convert any of the six break points that came his way at 1-1 and 4-4.
Once Nadal stole the opener with a break in the 10th game it was one-way traffic as he left Del Potro trailing in a cloud of Parisian clay dust to set up a final against Dominic Thiem.
“It was a tough first set with opportunities for Juan Martin, I am fortunate that I won the first set and then I played more aggressively,” Nadal, who equals Roger Federer’s feat of reaching the final of a single Slam 11 times, said on court as fans chanted “Viva Espana”.
“I am very happy to be back in the final here at Roland Garros. For me it’s incredible.
“Thiem beat me in Madrid this year and played with big power. I know I have to play my best tennis to have a chance on Sunday. I believe I can be ready for that final.”
Del Potro, playing in the semi finals here for the first time since losing to Roger Federer in 2009, was 0-40 ahead on Nadal’s serve at 1-1 but could not press home the break and worryingly appeared to hurt his hip at deuce in that game.
He did not look unduly affected though and his heavy groundstrokes took a toll on Nadal who rescued three more break points in the ninth game.
There was a sense of inevitability when Del Potro served at 4-5 and Nadal turned the screws to grab two set points at 15-40.
Del Potro saved one but a backhand error handed Nadal the set and he never took a backward glance after that.
Nadal crushed Del Potro’s spirit with the intensity of his tennis in the second set, bounding 5-0 ahead before the Argentine registered a game to lift the spirits of his fans.
They tried their best to rouse their man in the third set but it was mission impossible as Nadal, clubbing the ball as if his life depended on it, churned out winners.