"I think it is possible to compete every day. against players from the top 10, top 20, top 30", said Cecchinato, whose next stop will be the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Eastbourne.
But throughout this French Open he has shown his consistency, overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, and Kei Nishikori in four sets and getting the better of an exhausted Alexander Zverev, the only player who can challenge the eventual finalists on clay, in the quarters.
"I can not believe it now", Karin Thiem, a tennis coach, told a group of reporters.
It looks a daunting mission for the 24-year-old Thiem but not necessarily an impossible one.
The pair were locked on serve in the second set until they were separated by an enthralling tiebreak.More news: Trump, Kim make history with first-ever US-North Korean summit
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.
The 11th-seeded Schwartzman appeared to have done his homework well as he dominated the early exchanges to bag the opening set: an achievement in itself as it was the first one Nadal had lost at Roland Garros since 2015.
With his strong clay court play as of late, Nadal is not necessarily walking into this match the clearcut favorite.
"That was definitely the key", Cecchinato said.
Thiem is responsible for both of those losses - at Rome in May 2017, and at Madrid last month - which at least lends a little intrigue to Sunday's proceedings.
"It was very important to win the first one".
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Cecchinato, who was suspended for match-fixing in 2016 before being cleared on a technicality, proved to be no pushover even though he had never won a match at a major before this year's French Open. Nadal won at Roland-Garros and took the US Open trophy in 2017.
Cecchinato brilliantly saved two break points at 2-2 in the second and continued to hold his own to reach a tie-break, where a series of sensational winners from both players saw Thiem let three successive set points slip. The Austrian looked very assured against Alexander Zverev as well as Cecchinato.
But an industrious Thiem responded with a strong hold and broke back at 5-5 with a sizzling forehand victor down the line, and served out the set in just 45 minutes. "It was like a new match after the first set".
"You have 75 percent of serves in, you cannot hope for more than that, you've got to do something with that, you've got to come to the net, serve and volley, you can't just be happy with being in the rally".
"It was not a very nice feeling", Thiem said. He is 10-0 in French Open finals and 77-0 at the tournament overall when he wins the first set, so getting a jump on him early - a tactic far easier to write about than to execute - would seem to be a fairly obvious strategy.
By the sixth game of the opener, Cecchinato had claimed just one point off the Austrian's serve.More news: E3 2018: Watch the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey trailer, gameplay footage