Clash of the titans when Rafa faces Delpo

 - Alex Sharp

Ten-time champion Rafael Nadal takes on dangerous foe in big-hitting major winner Juan Martin del Potro.

Duel Nadal - Del Potro

Players past and present talk of the all-out aggression required to even stand a chance against Rafael Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Following a tricky Wednesday in Paris, which saw the world No.1 fall 4-6 5-3 behind against Argentine Diego Schwartzman, Nadal surrendered just another measly four games upon resumption on Thursday to book an 11th French Open semi-final and edge closer to an 11th Coupe des Mousquetaires.

Does anyone have the artillery to persistently hit through the 32-year-old’s clay court defences?

Well, Juan Martin del Potro certainly has the weapons.

Wielding his sledgehammer forehand and searing serve, the world No.6 is back in the Roland-Garros semi-finals for the first time since 2009.

Del Potro withstood 53 winners from Marin Cilic to prevail 7-6(5) 5-7 6-3 7-5 in their rain-interrupted encounter, and while his strokes weren’t quite lasering into the corners, the 2009 US Open champion found a way.

He will need all his tennis tools in peak condition to tackle the task of Nadal.

“It’s tough to speak,” said an emotional del Potro, reduced to tears having booked his place in the final four. “It’s been a long time, I’ve had three surgeries on my left wrist, I was close to quitting this sport. I have no words to describe this – it’s so good for me, my team and family. I’m so proud. I feel at home here – merci beaucoup.”

The amiable Argentine receives rapturous support wherever he plays, so it will be intriguing which way the crowd calls up against the ‘Decima’ champion Rafa.

The duo haven’t duelled on clay since 2011, when Nadal clinched a four-set victory to secure Davis Cup glory for Spain.

The world No.1 also enjoys a 9-5 record in his series with Del Potro, and the No.5 seed didn’t exactly ooze confidence during his on-court interview on Thursday.

“It’s going to be challenge every player wants to have. I don’t know if I will win, but I’ll take the love from the crowd and that is more important," he said.

Nadal is wary of the raw power Del Potro possesses, and the danger he poses. “He has fantastic potential; good server, aggressive game from the baseline,” the defending champion said. “I have to play aggressively. If I play defensively and I don't take intensity, I will be lost.”

If Del Potro’s radar is off, Rafa will most likely rattle through to the final. If Del Potro’s sizzling shots fizz over the net and catch the world No.1 off balance, we could be treated to a pulsating display of power play.