PARIS — Rafael Nadal stormed into an unprecedented 11th French Open final with a crushing straight-sets victory over a forlorn Juan Martin del Potro.
Nadal will become only the second man in the Open era to play in more than 10 finals at the same Grand Slam when he takes on Dominic Thiem on Sunday — Roger Federer being the other with his Wimbledon exploits.
The 10-time Roland Garros champion was second-best in the first set, but the powerful Del Potro was unable to claim a solitary break as he was thrashed 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 on a glorious Friday in Paris.
Diego Schwartzman gave Nadal a fright when he ended his run of 37 consecutive sets won at the clay-court major before rain halted his charge in the quarterfinals, but after fighting back to beat one Argentine, he eased past another.
Del Potro made a strong start despite appearing to damage his hip, but faded on a warm afternoon as the outstanding world No. 1 stayed on course for a 17th major success.
The defending champion was imperious after an uncertain start, easing to his 24th win in 27 Grand Slam semifinals to end Del Potro’s hopes of securing a second major title — nine years after his U.S. Open triumph.
11th Roland-Garros [email protected] rolls past Del Potro 6-4 6-1 6-2. Meets Thiem on Sunday.#RG18 pic.twitter.com/Kxer1ZZxbu
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 8, 2018
Del Potro came out swinging and the defending champion had to show great resistance to save three break points in the third game.
The fifth seed grimaced while holding his hip after getting himself in a tangle when a Nadal winner left him wrong-footed, but continued to apply the pressure following a short medical timeout.
Nadal saved another three break points before holding with a sublime winner, then unleashed a couple of magnificent shots and Del Potro netted a backhand to lose a set which he had the better of.
The Spaniard maintained his momentum to take a 2-0 lead in the second, executing the drop shot to perfection and making Del Potro run in the heat, claiming another break with a searing backhand. Del Potro saved two set points to avoid a bagel, but a rampant Nadal charged in at every opportunity and served out the set in commanding fashion.
A weary Del Potro looked like he could not take any more punishment when a Nadal backhand winner gave him a break to love in the first game of the third set.
He looked on in disbelief with a wry smile after Nadal fizzed a forehand past him on the run and the “King of Clay” jumped and punched the air after a bullet of a return gave him a double break for a 4-1 lead.
The tournament favorite served out his 450th Tour-level match on clay to reach his 24th Grand Slam final, Del Potro drilling a backhand return long to crash out.
Nadal  bt Del Potro  6-4 6-1 6-2
Nadal – 35/19
Del Potro – 20/32
Nadal – 0/3
Del Potro – 2/1
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/9
Del Potro – 0/7
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 61
Del Potro – 75
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 72/65
Del Potro – 57/50
Nadal – 87
Del Potro – 61