Thiem reached his first grand slam final at Roland Garros with a comfortable defeat of Marco Cecchinato, meaning he will face Nadal after the 10-time victor swept aside Juan Martin del Potro in the second semi-final.
Only two players have managed to beat Nadal at the French Open since he first bounded into Roland Garros in 2005 armed with a bulging left bicep, pirate trousers and a pulverising brand of claycourt tennis the like of which had not been seen before.
Thiem went through one pivotal stretch against Cecchinato (cheh-key-NAH'-toe), 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.
Earlier, Thiem needed to survive a nasty bout of the jitters to see off Marco Cecchinato and reach his first grand slam final.
Under pressure at the outset, Rafael Nadal already had cast aside three break points in his French Open semifinal's third game when, at 4-all, Juan Martin del Potro held another three. "I'm so happy to be in the final again", said Nadal afterward.
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. That's exactly what he did in Madrid, and no tennis player could have withstood such a barrage as the world #8 delivered.
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But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32."Thiem is an unbelievable player".
The battle wore on and on, before, on the Austrian's fifth set point, Cecchinato went long to fall two sets behind.
Thiem, who swept past second seed Alexander Zverev in the last-eight, broke the Italian in the first game.
The clay courts of Roland Garros host the second Grand Slam of the season.
"That", del Potro would say later, "was my chance".
"Now I do not have any words to describe this moment, it is so good for me, my team, my family". Nadal and Federer have won the past six Grand Slam tournaments between them. Although he lost the first point of the fourth game, a ideal drop shot got Schwartzman to 15-all, and a backhand victor from followed by a drop shot gave Nadal a second break an 4-1 lead. "I know I have to improve a little bit".
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If I had won the second set, I think it would have been totally different the third set.
"He's a big favorite against everybody", Thiem said.
"That was not a nice feeling".
"It was a really close tiebreak and I didn't want that especially after I missed an easy volley at 6/4". Cecchinato, who upset Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals after winning two pulsating tiebreaks, rallied and even held three set points prior to Thiem triumphing 12-10. "I need time I think".
However, having squandered one set point, he went in for a simple backhand volley victor only to dump it into the net.
In 2016, Cecchinato was accused of match-fixing and suspended for 18 months, but he appealed, and his punishment was dropped on a technicality.
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