While Nadal's dominance in Paris can never be doubted, this year's inexorable march to the final has illustrated the paucity of genuine challengers, especially in the absence of Andy Murray and Roger Federer, and with Novak Djokovic being some way from his best after injury.
The seventh-seeded Austrian knows the enormity of the task at hand and seems to be making sure he puts in his best against the King of Clay, who has a 10-0 record in Roland Garros finals.
Del Potro did everything right against Nadal in that opener, except actually winning the set.
The Argentine won the first two points to round off the first set and outlasted his Croatian opposite in lengthy rallies to win in three hours and 50 minutes.
A tired Del Potro looked like he could not take any more punishment when a Nadal backhand victor gave him a break to love in the first game of the third set.
"True, I understand that everybody here, you have to write things", he said.
Tennis has been good for Nadal but he has been just as influential as a key driver of the sport's growth.
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To prove the point, Sterling hasn't scored in his last 20 games for England , stretching back to 2015. Bertrand played 40 times for Saints this season, whereas Rose featured just 17 times for Tottenham.
"I will focus on myself, like I did every match here". Yet Nadal and James are tapping into a cycle of near-peerless play that is redefining how we view the greats and what can be accomplished well more than a decade into all-time careers.
He probably felt as though he had been, as Nadal completed a devastating 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory.
The fifth seed, playing in his first Roland Garros semi-final in nine years, had three break points in the third game and three more in the ninth. The Italian succumbed quickly in the third set, sparing the French Open from a final in which his past match-fixing case would have been rehashed under a global spotlight.
Thiem remains confident that history won't repeat itself on Sunday, adding he will arrive on Court Philippe Chatrier with a clear mind.
When they returned to the court, Nadal used a burst of three straight games - and 13 of 15 points - to close in on taking the second set.
Thiem survived two tough sets against Marco Cecchinato before cruising through the third for a 7-5, 7-6, 6-1 success.
The tournament favorite served out his 450th Tour-level match on clay to reach his 24th Grand Slam final, Del Potro drilling a backhand return long to crash out. "I just enjoy the fact that I am here again".
'I will try everything that my plan also going to work out a little bit here and not only in Madrid or in Rome. "This is my favorite grand slam and hopefully I will be better than previous year. I think he showed that at the start of the match Rafa was very nervous and you have to keep his head under the water, and that's what DelPo couldn't do today", said Mouratoglou.
"When I missed that volley it wasn't a very nice feeling". And I'm really happy to prove the people wrong, because all the guys who practiced the week or 10 days before Roland Garros, they are already at home for a week.