Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Rafael Nadal.
- We have two ATP semifinal matches Friday.
- Rafael Nadal is an overwhelming favorite to win his match, but Juan Martin del Potro has challenged him in the past.
- Dominic Thiem, now in his third consecutive French Open semifinal, will take on this year’s Cinderella story, Marco Cecchinato.
With the men finally finishing up the quarterfinals, after rain put a damper on things Wednesday, we look ahead to the semifinals of the 2018 French Open. Both matches might end up playing out a lot more tightly than you might expect. Let’s take a closer look at both, including any bets I made.
Dominic Thiem (-833) vs. Marco Cecchinato (+500)
Friday, 7 a.m. ET
Getting us underway at 7 a.m. ET, we’ll find Thiem (-833) taking on the tournament’s Cinderella story, Cecchinato (+500), on court Philippe Chatrier. While the line doesn’t indicate that this match will be very close, things could get tricky for the favorite.
For starters, Thiem will play in his first semifinal at Roland-Garros as the betting favorite. In each of his previous two semis here, he came in as a considerable underdog — against Rafa last year (+350) and Novak Djokovic in 2016 (+650). Cecchinato, who had never won a match at a Grand Slam before this tournament, is playing with house chips — and will undoubtedly be swinging freely.
Although class-wise Thiem possesses the game to sweep Cecchinato off the court in short order — I could see nerves playing a factor for the Austrian. After all, the pressure will be entirely on his side of the net. He also could get caught looking ahead to his first Grand Slam final — after not seeing one of the major names in his way. We will see very early how Thiem will handle this new type of Slam pressure.
Style-wise, both players are shotmakers who like to rip their one-handed backhanders. Thiem, of course, has more firepower off the ground (especially on the forehand wing) — but Cecchinato pulls out some pretty nifty shots on the run. The Italian could also counterpunch with his own blows.
However, in the end, I see class prevailing — and Thiem advancing to his first major final. That said, I gave a long look at Cecchinato +2.5 sets (+120) — considering the number of questionable sets Thiem has dropped this year. So far at Roland-Garros, Thiem dropped a set to Stefanos Tsitsipas as a -455 favorite — and another against Matteo Berrettini, as a -2000 favorite.
In Lyon, Thiem dropped sets (as a large favorite) against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (-833), Dusan Lajovic (-300), and Gilles Simon (-625), before capturing the title. And, before that, he dropped sets to Federico Delbonis (-455) in Madrid — and Andrey Rublev (-400) in Monte Carlo.
So, at least this season, Thiem hasn’t played especially mistake-free tennis. And with the pressure geared up in his third consecutive semi (this time as a significant favorite), I’m not sure this match is straight sets for the Austrian. And he seems to lose first sets more often than not. So if he feels the weight of the pressure, Thiem could find himself down a set off the bat.
At the same time, Cecchinato has spent a ton of time on court so far in Paris —and could also feel the nerves himself — fresh off the two biggest wins of his career. So, for me, I’ll pass.
The Pick: Pass (lean Cecchinato +2.5 sets)
Rafa Nadal (-714) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (+450)
Friday, not before 9:30 a.m. ET
H2H: Nadal leads 9-5