Rafael Nadal remained on track to win an unprecedented 10th French Open title after brushing aside young Austrian Dominic Thiem in Friday’s semi-final.
The burly Spaniard, who turned 31 last week, will meet Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s Championship match, after dropping just seven games in a 6-3 6-4 6-0 victory on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Thiem, who overthrew defending champion Novak Djokovic in the last round, finished the match with 34 unforced errors as he regularly misfired from the back of the court.
That was largely down to the brilliance of Nadal, who exquisitely nullified the Austrian’s powerful baseline game, forcing his younger opponent to hit closer to the lines and overplay his groundstrokes.
In the end, the anticipated contest lasted just two hours and seven minutes, as Nadal racked up his 78th victory on the red clay at Roland Garros.
He is still yet to drop a set at this year’s competition.
Thiem unable to repeat Rome success
Despite going into the match as the underdog, there was still a feeling that Theim could trouble the nine-time champion following his own impressive run to the last four.
The Austrian also won the pair’s previous meeting in the quarter-finals at the Italian Open last month, bringing to an end Nadal’s 17-match winning run.
After breaking the Nadal serve in the opening game of the match, Theim appeared ready to challenge the Spaniard’s clay court supremacy once again, however his advantage was short lived.
Nadal swiftly reeled off the next four games, as Theim’s potent groundstrokes, which dismantled Djokovic, began to flounder.
Amid a barrage of Nadal forehands, Thiem managed to stay competitive but it wasn’t enough to save the opening set, which lasted 43 minutes.
Nadal looking back to his best
Nadal stepped on the accelerator at the start of the second, breaking his opponent again to take a 2-1 lead.
That left Theim with a mountain to climb and, despite his best efforts, the Austrian was unable to break through Nadal’s impeccable defence, while his error count quickly rose.
It’s hard to believe that it has been three year’s since the Spaniard last won the title here - losing to Djokovic in 2015 before retiring though injury last year.
Even so, this was an indication that worthily named “king of clay” is back to his best.
The Spaniard steamrolled through the third set in just 27 minutes, emphatically booking his place in Sunday’s final.
Wawrinka edges out Murray in stunning semi-final
The other semi-final was a much closer affair, as Wawrinka twice battled back from a set down to defeat world number one Andy Murray.
After the first two sets were split, Murray displayed his incredible defensive skills to keep Wawrinka at bay and clinch the third.
However, after edging the fourth set on a tie break, the Swiss powerhouse produced some of his best tennis in the decider, eventually prevailing 6-7(6) 6-3 5-7 7-6(3) 6-1.