Facing a rampaging Rafael Nadal on clay is a threat any day, but on the terre battue of Court Philippe Chatrier is akin to running with the bulls. He looked hesitant and edgy, as if he might not be able to finish what he started.
It was the Austrian's third consecutive appearance in the semifinals at Roland Garros. "I will try to do my best, to play my best tennis, and see if I can do a good match". And he practices that way too. "And Nadal has been doing it for years and years and years".
Nadal became the first man to beat Federer in a Slam final, ending the Swiss star's hopes of holding all four majors at the same time. A victory over Thiem would allow him to equal Margaret Court's career record of 11 singles titles at a single major tournament.
The world No. 8 made history of his own Friday, becoming the second Austrian male to advance to a grand slam final after the hard-nosed 1995 French Open champion, Thomas Muster. But not for nothing has he been the second-best ATP player on clay this season and the only player to beat Nadal at clay-court Masters two years in a row.
"That was not a nice feeling".
Nadal lost the first set to his opponent and things were level in the second when the match was suspended last night because of rain.
There's also the emotional toll to consider - after beating Cilic, Del Potro broke down in tears on court and said: "It's tough to speak now".
Nadal won his tie in straight sets with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory.
Thiem defeated Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6 (12-10), 6-1 to reach his first French Open final.
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The world number one, bidding for a record-extending 11th title, clinched the second set soon after the restart.
"Thiem beat me in Madrid this year and played with big power. I have a plan", a confident Thiem, who dispatched surprise package Marco Cecchinato 7-5 7-6 (10) 6-1 in the semi-finals on Friday, told reporters. In my eyes, those odds are too bullish about Nadal's chances. Stephens won last year's US Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals. Both players dropped serve four times. Thiem will have to produce tremendous quality and depth for hours to have a chance to join Soderling and Djokovic's exclusive club.
"I'm facing Rafa so I'm not the one who has the pressure", said Thiem.
Del Potro, playing in the semi-finals 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.
"It was a poor performance", Bresnik said.
Bresnik likes Thiem's current state of mind and form after encouraging him to play at the low-level ATP event in Lyon, France, the week before Roland Garros.
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. "Despite the tiredness, I'm moving to a more comfortable surface", he added. "But I like this".
"I'm happy and I accept my age". People said: 'It's stupid.
"When you make it out of that", Murray said, "you build a little bit of confidence". Juan Martin del Potro took his frustration out on a fan during his quarterfinal Roland Garros encounter with Marin Cilic-though he couldn't quite figure out which spectator to zone in on. "So to be here from there, I think, is rewarding, because those times were not easy".