French Open 2018: Rafael Nadal insists he’s still human

File Spain's Rafael Nadal

File Spain's Rafael Nadal

Plenty have gone in with sound tactical plans against the 16-times Grand Slam champion in Paris but when the forehand bombardment begins, the best-laid plans usually fall apart as was the case in Friday's semi-final when Nadal thrashed Juan Martin del Potro who many thought posed a credible threat.

He is the only player to beat Nadal on clay in the past two years - in Rome last year and in Madrid last month - and this season no other player, not even the undisputed claycourt king, can count as many match wins on the red dirt.

On his next match point, Nadal made a first serve that sent Schwartzman wide to the felt and followed with a forehand victor into the open court.

"I'm really happy that I won this Grand Slam".

Nadal has not lost at Roland Garros when taking the first set and that record did not look like coming under threat as he continually rebuffed Thiem's attempts to make inroads into his serve, taking the second courtesy of an early break. 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 World No 7 Thiem outclassed top seed Nadal earlier in Madrid Open in May this year and in the Italian Open last year.

"The big key was the second-set tiebreak because it was very close and I saved I think three set points", Thiem said after the match.

Yet despite lagging behind on the size of its winner's paycheque, the French Open is more generous overall than both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

"True, I understand that everybody here, you have to write things", he said.

Thiem‚ who was playing in his third successive French Open semi-final‚ admitted the second set had been a nervy encounter after needing five set points to get through it.

"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".

World number one Nadal went into Friday's clash with a 9-5 career record against Del Potro‚ including all three meetings on clay. Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the French Open. "Good tactics and mentality in the first set".

All have been on clay, and Nadal leads 6-3, including 2-0 in Paris, beating Thiem in the first round in 2014 and the semifinals a year ago. Nadal did not register a first serve in this segment of the match and he double-faulted in opening the fourth game.

Women's final: No. 1 Simona Halep beat No. 10 Sloane Stephens, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

By then, Nadal was finding his spots. After guzzling water during that break, Nadal felt better and was back to playing his unmistakable brand of almost unbeatable clay-court tennis.

The No. 6-seeded pairing from the Czech Republic beat Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya of Japan 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday.

The forecast says there is a chance of rain.

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