PARIS: Rafael Nadal says his domination at the French Open will not go on “for 10 more years” but watching the way he demolished Juan Martin del Potro on Friday to reach his 11th final in Paris it was hard to see when his reign would end.
After a sticky first set in which Del Potro’s powerful groundstrokes and heavy serve earned the Argentine several chances to forge ahead, Nadal seized control with as devastating a display as he has ever produced on Philippe Chatrier court.
His 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory means he has now reached his 24th Grand Slam final and equals Roger Federer’s record for most finals at a single major — Federer’s coming at Wimbledon.
Only three times (once when he withdrew with an injury) has the Mallorcan not reached the French Open final since he first re-defined claycourt tennis in 2005 as a sleeveless warrior.
If Austrian Dominic Thiem does win on Sunday in what will be his first Grand Slam final he will join Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling as the only two players to down Nadal on his favourite claycourt battleground.
Yet Nadal, whose all-time claycourt record now stands at 414-36 says nobody should assume his feats are routine and that each victory is celebrated like the first.
“Today is a day to rejoice. When you’re in a final like Roland Garros, it’s a great happiness. Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about,” he said.
“It may sound easy and logical, but I don’t want it to be. It’s not a routine. I don’t want anyone to think that it’s a routine. It’s a day that I should rejoice about.”
Nadal has dropped only one set so far in reaching the final — one more than he conceded in winning the 2017 title.
Although at times during the first set against Del Potro, especially when he was 0-40 down at 1-1 and 15-40 down at 4-4 it looked as though he might be in for a real scrap.
“His serve was so difficult. He was serving big and hitting very strong the first shots. It was very difficult to stop that,” Nadal told reporters.
“In every game that I served, I had problems. When he’s serving, it’s not in my hands. When I’m serving, should be in my hands but I gave too many chances to him to have the break.
“I was lucky or — lucky or I don’t know what to say for them. Then I converted the important one.”
So what will he need to do to counter the credible threat of Thiem, the only man to beat him on clay this year, on Sunday? The answer it seems is quite simple.
“True, I understand that everybody here, you have to write things,” he said. “I can say a lot of things, but the easiest answer and the real answer is to play well.”