French Open Semifinal Previews: Thiem v Cecchinato; Nadal v Del Potro

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Rafael Nadal played perhaps his best match of 2017 to come back and beat Juan Martin del Delpo in four sets in the US Open semis. (Getty Images)

Before each day's play begins in Paris, we'll preview must-see matches that you'll find on Tennis Channel Plus. Tennis Channel Plus features up to 10 courts of live action from Roland Garros beginning Sunday, May 27 at 5:00am ET. Catch up and watch all your favorite stars anytime, on-demand, with Tennis Channel Plus.

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Dominic Thiem [7] vs. Marco Cecchinato

Thiem will be playing his third straight semifinal at Roland Garros, but this one will not be like the others in one very significant way: his opponent. For that, Thiem will surely be grateful, at least to start. Two years ago, he was blown out by Novak Djokovic. Last year, he was blown out by Rafael Nadal. This year, instead of a player who has won double-digit Grand Slam titles, he’ll face one who hadn’t won a Grand Slam match before last week. 

Is Cecchinato’s upset win over Djokovic in the quarterfinals exactly what Thiem, who seemed to have hit a plateau over the last 12 months, needed to break through to the next level? These are the moments of unexpected good fortune that can propel a player’s career upward—provided he or she can take advantage of them. Thiem should be able to take advantage here. He’s coming off a straight-set win over the No. 2 seed, Alexander Zverev, and he’s ranked 64 spots ahead of Cecchinato.

Can anything keep Thiem from his first major final this time? He won his only ATP meeting with Cecchinato, on hard courts in 2014, though the Italian beat Thiem on clay at a Futures event in Italy in 2013. Cecchinato will have nothing to lose here, and he proved in his last match how well he can play in that situation. Thiem, by contrast, will feel the pressure of being the favorite; a loss would be a bitter disappointment. But he seems to be playing too well to let that happen. Winner: Thiem

Daily Serve—previewing men's semifinal Friday at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal [1] vs. Juan Martin del Potro [5]

When the tournament began and we looked at Nadal’s draw, only one name in his half stood out as a player who could give him any trouble at all: del Potro. Now, nearly two weeks later, their semifinal will come to pass. Does it seem as tantalizing as it did then? I’d say yes. Nadal has dropped only one set in his first five rounds, and Delpo just two, and each looked good in bulling through their quarterfinals on Thursday.

Nadal leads Del Potro in their head to head 9-5, and is 2-0 on clay. But in the Delpo 3.0 era, which began with the Argentine’s comeback in 2016, they’re 1-1. Del Potro won their semifinal at the Rio Olympics in a thrilling third-set tiebreaker, while Nadal played perhaps his best match of 2017 to come back and beat Delpo in four in the US Open semis. These two don’t play minor matches.

Del Potro has everything it takes to pull the upset, game-wise and belief-wise. His tactic will be simple: belt the ball, and don’t allow Rafa to start pulling him from side to side. Delpo will almost surely have the crowd roaring with his every pulverized winner. But the question is the same as it always is when a power-hitter goes up against Rafa: can he pulverize enough of them? The answer is usually no. Winner: Nadal

—Tennis Channel Plus features up to 10 courts of live action from Roland Garros beginning Sunday, May 27 at 5:00am ET.

—Catch up and watch all your favorite stars anytime on-demand with Tennis Channel Plus.

—When you buy Tennis Channel Plus, your 12-month subscription gets you access to every ATP Masters 1000 tournament played outside the U.S., and every round through the finals of WTA Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati.

(The availability of matches or events on TC Plus is subject to change.)

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