"You know when you start the clay-court season that Dominic, he's one of these players that have the chance to win every tournament that he's playing", Nadal said, "and maybe even (more so) here in Roland Garros, because he's strong physically".
At long last, Thiem converted his fifth set point when Cecchinato sent a forehand long. I know he has great potential.
He will now be looking to win a record 11th grand slam title of the tournament.
Nadal dealt with that ultimately minor inconvenience and claimed his record-extending 11th French Open championship Sunday by displaying his foe-rattling excellence in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem. For Nadal it would be title number eleven in Paris and a seventeenth Major overall, for Thiem it is a first final at a Slam.
Nadal crushed del Potro's spirit with the intensity of his tennis in the second set, bounding 5-0 ahead before the Argentine registered a game to lift the spirits of his fans.
Nadal is 85-2 for his French Open career, 110-2 in all best-of-fives on clay.
In the second-set tiebreaker Friday, Thiem went ahead 6-3, but missed out on three set points there, including a bad volley into the net at 6-4 that left him chewing ruefully on his left index finger.
"I think that was my chance of the match".
In Madrid, Thiem thrived in the quicker, higher altitude conditions to win their quarter-final in straight sets.
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True, he was obliterated by Nadal in the semi-final 12 months ago but Thiem has added more aggression to his natural claycourt weapons, specifically the forehand, as he displayed when stunning Nadal in the Madrid quarter-final.
A fourth set point for Thiem vanished because of one of Cecchinato's many drop shots.
That was swatted away with Nadal's double-handed backhand, though, and the second set duly went the way of the favourite.
If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal, 32, finally calls it a day.
"If you lose, you lose, but I'm going to play with my highest passion and love for the game and for the sport, to try to have success".
Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again. I had a lot of break points. He then crushed a tired looking Zverev 6-4 6-2 6-1 before halting the fairy tale run of Cecchinato 7-6 7-6 6-1. Stephens won last year's U.S. Open; Halep is 0-3 in major finals.
The No. 7-seeded Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, is appearing in his first Grand Slam final.
Thiem has shown in the past that there is a way to beat Nadal on a clay court by simply hitting every ball as hard as he can.
"That", del Potro would say later, "was my chance".