French Open 2018: Dominic Thiem beats Marco Cecchinato to make final
Austrian seventh seed Dominic Thiem reached his first Grand Slam final by beating unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato in three sets at Roland Garros.
Thiem, 24, won 7-5 7-6 (12-10) 6-1 against the 25-year-old, who shocked Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
Thiem edged the first two sets before clinching the third in 21 minutes.
He will play Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final after the Spaniard's win over Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro.
"The big key was the second-set tie-break because it was very close and I saved I think three set points," said Thiem.
"If I lost that tie-break it would have been a very close match and I didn't want that.
"Of course it's very important to have a good recovery now. I'll watch the other semi-final to study my opponent and then it's full power on Sunday."
Thiem has long been considered as a Grand Slam champion in the making, with Roland Garros seemingly his best opportunity.
Nobody has won more clay-court matches on the ATP tour than Thiem this year, while he is the only person to have beaten Nadal on the red dirt in the past two years.
Those victories came over three sets in Rome and Madrid - and he now faces the ultimate test after top seed Nadal overcame fifth seed Del Potro in the second semi-final in straight sets.
Thiem started quickly against Cecchinato, breaking at the first opportunity and then seizing control with some dominant serving which saw him drop just one point with the ball in hand.
A wobble at 4-3 allowed the Italian to level, only for Thiem to regain control with another break for 6-5 and then serve out for the first set.
Cecchinato batted off three break points in the second set, his serve proving impenetrable as it went to a thrilling tie-break.
Thiem missed four set points, Cecchinato spurning three, before the Austrian finally clinched it when Cecchinato went long.
And he swept through the third - albeit with a brief wobble when he saved two break points in the final game - to become only the second Austrian player to reach a Slam final following Thomas Muster.
"Of course there is pressure especially in Grand Slam finals," said Thiem.
"I have gone a very long way now and I don't want to lose the finals; otherwise, it's not a very nice feeling.
"But on the other hand, it's so tough to go all the way in such a tournament. Facing Rafa, I'm not the one who has the pressure."
Cecchinato had knocked out three seeded players to reach the last four
Cecchinato was not a name known to many outside tennis circles before his exploits at Roland Garros.
And if he was, it was more likely because of the 18-month ban - later reduced to 12 months and then overturned - given to him by the Italian Tennis Federation for match-fixing rather than his on-court history.
He had never won a main draw match at a Grand Slam before this fortnight.
But his journey through the draw has been a memorable one: winning his opener in five sets, then knocking out Marco Trungelliti following the Argentine lucky loser's 10-hour car journey to Paris, before putting out 10th seed Pablo Carreno Busta and eighth seed David Goffin.
All of that was topped by a gripping quarter-final win against 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic.
However, he could not reach the same heights against Thiem, despite having the vocal backing of a noisy Court Philippe Chatrier.
He showed glimpses of his ability - particularly from his one-handed backhand - and fondness for drop-shots but his confidence and energy visibly wilted after being edged out in the second-set tie-break.
From that point the world number 72's run looked to be over, and so it proved as Thiem cleaned up victory.
"If I won the second set, I think the third set is totally different," said Cecchinato, who is set to move into the world's top 30 for the first time.
"I went a little bit down mentally and physically because I have played so many matches.
"Reaching the semi-final at Roland Garros is very special. Now I want to work more, think positive and maybe I can go to the top 20."