2018 French Open: Thiem battles past Cecchinato to reach first Grand Slam final

2018 French Open: Thiem battles past Cecchinato to reach first Grand Slam final

The seventh seed had to come through two tight sets against the unseeded Italian before racing through the third. He will face Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final.

joseph-nicholson
Joe Nicholson

Dominic Theim has reached his first Grand Slam final after battling past unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato at the French Open.

Theim, who was playing his third successive semi-final at Roland Garros, was the overwhelming favourite against the world number 72 from Sicily, who defeated Novak Djokovic to reach the last four.

However, the 24-year-old from Austria was made to work for a 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1 victory on Court Philippe Chatrier, which included a phenomenal second set tie-break, full of quality, tension and drama.

It was a pivotal passage of play and after Theim, the seventh seed at this year's event, converted his fifth set point, the result never looked in doubt.

In the end, the Austrian's relentless power and impressive all-court game prevailed after two hours and 17 minutes of captivating tennis.

He will now face defending champion Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final, after he beat Juan Martin del Potro in the other semi-final.

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Blistering start from Theim

Cecchinato, who had never won a match at a major before the is tournament, more than played his part, even if the early signs were ominous for the 25-year-old Sicilian.

Thiem broke the Italian's serve in the opening game of the match and quickly took the initiative with a barrage of bludgeoning ground strokes.

The Austrian is renowned for his potent baseline game, where he can use his physical attributes and acute angles to manoeuvre opponents around the court.

Theim has also added more pop and accuracy on his serve, and it proved difficult for Cecchinato to break the Austrian throughout the contest.

Even so, after coming through a couple of arduous games on his own serve, the Italian took his chance to break back at 4-3 in the opening set.

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Cecchinato goes down fighting

It came after four unforced errors from Theim and, for the first time in the match, the Austrian showed signs of vulnerability.

Cecchinato's ability to strike the ball on the rise allowed him to go toe-to-toe with his opponent from the back of the court, resulting in some pleasing exchanges between the pair's single-handed backhands.

However, Thiem's slumber didn't last long, and the Austrian claimed a crucial break at 5-5 before closing out the opening set.

Cecchinato may not have the power, but the Italian landed 82 per cent of his first serves in the second set and it was no surprise it eventually went to a tie break.

It didn't disappoint, with Theim racing to a 6-3 lead before squandering his advantage - missing a seemingly routine volley on his second set point.

Cecchinato, who delighted the Parisian crowd with an array of perfectly-executed drop shots, also had three set points but couldn't covert before losing a remarkable set in 72 minutes.

Unfortunately, that marked the end of the Italian's challenge after Theim secured an early break in the third.

He then raced away, into his first major final.

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