Thiem reached his first grand slam final at Roland Garros with a comfortable defeat of Marco Cecchinato, meaning he will face Nadal after the 10-time victor swept aside Juan Martin del Potro in the second semi-final.
The win continues Nadal's undefeated run on championship weekend in Roland Garros - the Spaniard has never lost in Paris after reaching the semifinals. Nadal's introduction included a year-by-year accounting of every time he'd already won the French Open.
Austria's Dominic Thiem played Italy's Marco Cecchinato during their men's singles semi-final match on day thirteen of the French Open.
Cecchinato, who up until this year's Roland Garros never got past the first round of a Grand Slam event, did not look the same in the third set, as he hit just one victor, committing eight unforced errors.
He is the only player to beat Nadal on clay in the past two years - in Rome last year and in Madrid last month - and this season no other player, not even the undisputed claycourt king, can count as many match wins on the red dirt.
"Of course there is pressure, especially in Grand Slam finals, because I have gone a very long way now and I don't want to lose the final", said Thiem.
Only three times (once when he withdrew with an injury) has the Mallorcan not reached the French Open final since he first re-defined claycourt tennis in 2005 as a sleeveless warrior.
Play has since resumed and Nadal now leads 4-2 in the third set.
But the Spaniard was impressive on Friday, finishing with 35 winners and 19 unforced errors to Del Potro's analysis of 20 and 32."Thiem is an incredible player". Thiem was quick to respond, reeling off the next three games to take the set in 46 minutes.
Del Potro insisted his hip had not troubled him during the match, instead putting the defeat down to one simple fact: "His game is too good for me".
Nadal won the pair's only previous two meetings at the French Open, including their semi-final clash past year, but Thiem is confident he can upset the world number one on Sunday.
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"But I believe I will be ready for the final".
The forecast says there is a chance of rain. Nadal saved that second trio of break points Friday, held there, then broke in the next game to grab that set.
"But after the loss, I go a little bit down with mental, and physically I play so many matches, so I think is normal".
There was a sense of inevitability in the air when Del Potro served at 4-5 and sure enough Nadal turned the screws to grab two set points at 15-40.
On the resumption of play, Nadal held his two service points to take the second set 6-3. But now I am so happy.
"The big key was the second set‚" he said.
The No. 7-seeded Thiem beat Cecchinato 7-5, 7-6 (10), 6-1 in the semifinals Friday.
Nadal acknowledged that Thiem has been a "very complex" opponent.
Nadal said of his cramp: "I was very, very scared".
That win, according to three-times former champion Mats Wilander, should be all Thiem is thinking about when he prepares for Sunday's clash. "I am doing well", he said after edging out third seed Cilic 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.