Rafael Nadal reaches 11th French Open final, will face Dominic Thiem

Juan Martin del Potro serves against Marin Cilic

Juan Martin del Potro is back in the French Open semifinals for the first time since 2009 and will next face Rafael Nadal, the man with the most appearances at this stage of the clay-court Grand Slam.

Nadal, by contrast, had not had a sniff on Del Potro's serve until, at 5-4, two swishes of his forehand forced two set points, the second of which he converted when the Argentinian netted.

Nadal's match against the fifth-seeded del Potro on Friday will mark his third consecutive day of competition, though the 10-time Roland Garros champion isn't fazed by the extra work.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal faced an anxious night after rain intervened with him trailing Argentina's Diego Schwartzman in his French Open quarter-final on Wednesday.

You don't get to a Grand Slam semi-final by accident. "That's the most important for me".

Nadal still trails great rival Roger Federer by four major titles although the Swiss star is more than four years older.

" If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match I think and I didn't want that."

But as the Spaniard struggled to win points on his first serve, he was broken again for 5-4 and Schwartzman served for the set.

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

The Spaniard required barely two hours to win 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

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?

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His opponent Friday will be Juan Martin del Potro, who got choked up after waiting almost a decade to return to the final four in Paris - and dealing with three wrist operations in the interim.

"And you have to somehow have enough respect for the record and Rafa to say 'to overachieve I have to. risk more than I feel comfortable doing".

The Italian, who had never won a Grand Slam match before the tournament, faces seventh seed Thiem in the last four.

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.

Nadal broke in the lone game he had an opportunity to wrap up the set. Next he faced break point but a bold drop shot annulled the threat.

He put out seeded players Pablo Carreno Busta and David Goffin before the seismic shock of knocking out 2016 champion Djokovic in the quarter-finals. "Gave me time for reflection, to calm my nerves and to see how I needed to change things".

"If I had won the second set, I think it would have been a totally different third set", he explained.

He is the only man to beat the world number one on clay in the last two years - in Madrid this spring and in Rome last year.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic have won the French Open for their first Grand Slam title in women's doubles.

Writing for ESPN.com, Simon Cambers detailed Nadal's approach to his return game: "Nadal summons the strength to return hard and high, pushing his opponents back".

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