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And on the penultimate point of the semifinal, after being run ragged, the 2009 US Open victor could only offer up a smile.

Thiem remained the only player to have defeated Nadal on clay prior to Roland Garros, winning the duel in the quarterfinals at ATP Madrid Masters, snapping Nadal's streak of 50 straight sets won on clay.

But Paris, to tweak the title of Ernest Hemingway's famous love letter to the city, has been a predictable feast for Nadal.

The 10-time champion lost the first set 6-4 to the impressive Argentine Wednesday, but returned under sunny skies Thursday to win the next three sets 6-3 6-2 6-2 to reach the French Open semifinals. I'm going to play Wimbledon, of course, and then I will have to analyse the situation afterwards, when I will be ready to play.

"I have a very hard match against a player that is playing great", the 32-year old Spaniard said.

Both players contributed to an entertaining start, but Thiem quickly took control, breaking through in the opening game and then comfortably holding easily. But I get closer to them, just asking who was it?

PARIS-The only man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay this year was Dominic Thiem.

"He likes the conditions more here than in Madrid, for sure". However, Nadal later revealed that he was "suffering" against the Gentle Giant in the first set of the match.

"I played more aggressive". 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.

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Nadal seldom leaves the door cracked very long.

However, it was Del Potro who was in the ascendancy in the rallies in the first set.

When Thiem's set point No 4 and 5 were saved with a botched volley and a brilliant drop volley respectively, it looked like the tide might just change in the tiebreak as it had against Djokovic. Basically, it's typical Nadal in the French Open.

This time, Thiem instead faced Cecchinato, a 25-year-old from Sicily who never had won a Grand Slam match until this tournament and was the lowest-ranked men's semifinalist at the clay-court major in 19 years. It was cruise control for the 10-time Roland Garros champion from then on.

The seventh-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old Austrian, is, along with Alexander Zverev, one of the leaders of the new wave in men's tennis.

Austria's Dominic Thiem celebrates as he defeats Italy's Marco Cecchinato during their semifinal match of the French Open.

Nadal simply had too much power and consistency for Argentina's fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro in the match that followed.

The pivotal part of the match was the second-set tiebreaker. "He's improving every year". It is worth relaying, though, that in last year's semifinal, Nadal dropped just seven games total against the Austrian.

But Thiem's extra gear, athleticism and big-point confidence ultimately made the difference against Cecchinato as he was able to use his forehand to open up the court effectively. "He has the keys, and he has to take advantage".


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