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.
The world number one goes in search of Roland Garros title number 11 against Dominic Thiem of Austria on Sunday.
At long last, Thiem converted his fifth set point when Cecchinato sent a forehand long. But, sure, a little hope.
Nadal is now 110-2 in best-of-five-set matches on the surface, 85-2 in Paris.
Nadal's French Open campaign did not begin quite as smoothly as he has grown accustomed to, with the world #1 forced to save three set points to progress in straight sets 6-4 6-3 7-6 against Bolelli.
The 32-year-old Spaniard is 10-0 in finals in Paris, winning the trophy every year from 2005-08, then again every year from 2010-14, then again in 2017. The way he competes is unbelievable. He missed the tournament every year from 2013-16 because of injuries, including three operations on his left wrist. "And nobody ever will".
"Forget the 10 (French Open titles) and forget what happened past year, Thiem has to remember what happened in Madrid which is a title Nadal wants to win nearly as much as the French", Wilander, Eurosport's chief analyst, told Reuters. This year they have met twice and split the wins, with Nadal destroying Thiem 6-0 6-2 in Monte Carlo and Thiem winning 7-5 6-3 in Madrid.
Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, claimed his 85th win here against just two losses after weathering a big-hitting opening from 2009 US Open victor Del Potro to win 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.
Nadal has a 6-3 career ATP singles record against the young Austrian.
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"For me, the motivation to play here is always high, as high as possible", he said.
Thiem's ability to bully opponents from the baseline was on display in his 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals. Now he's made it a step further.
Thiem went through one pivotal stretch against Cecchinato, a 25-year-old from Sicily who never had won a Grand Slam match until this tournament and was the lowest-ranked men's semifinalist at the clay-court major in 19 years. "He has the power".
Thiem is contesting his first Grand Slam final.
So nerves could come into play in the early going against Nadal, who will be bidding for his 17th major title overall.
Nadal is now coached by former French Open champion Carlos Moya.
"What will be important will be to try and make him play in uncomfortable situations", said Moya, the 1998 French Open champion.
He led by two sets plus a break early in the third, when the middle finger on his racket-wielding left hand was cramping so badly he couldn't straighten it. "Once he is running, he is not that risky".
His ideal sliding and fine single-handed backhand make him a fearsome player on clay and Cecchinato believes he has what it takes to continue his climb up the rankings.