Nadal beat battling Thiem to claim fifth Madrid Open crown

Ross Houston
May 26, 2017

In the final of the men's Mutua Madrid Open, 23-year-old Austrian Dominic Tim will compete for the title with 30-year-old Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

He didn't want to talk about that at the press conference, the only thing that mattered was the result and another final.

But that was to misrepresent where these two stood in their more recent history.

The Spaniard is now 15-0 on his favoured surface this year having also picked up his 10th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in recent weeks.

Defending champion Murray will meet Fabio Fognini after the Italian breezed past countryman Matteo Berrettini 6-1, 6-3 yesterday in the first round. Never had they taken so long for a rematch, but then it had been at Roland Garros past year that their paths took such contrasting directions.

Djokovic was playing his first tournament in Madrid since parting company with his long-term coach Marian Vajda.

This was a jubilar 50th encounter of this two tennis titans, and we have to mention that this is the greatest rivalry in the history of this sport, because no other players met more times than Rafa and Novak. Cheers erupted at every point won by Nadal, and sighs accompanied his few errors: But they certainly had plenty to cheer.

The pair served up a sizzling second set, especially in the seventh game when Nadal finally broke the Belgian for a second time in the set at the fourth attempt after sensational rallies which had spectators in the Caja Magica rising to their feet in appreciation.

Djokovic started it with breaking Nadal's serve.

At 40-Ad, Nadal went big on his second serve, one that clipped the line to bring him back to deuce. Fortunately I managed to come back and break. Indeed he looked a little flat, but he did hold. He takes the match in straight sets, winning 6-2, 6-4.

Was Djokovic, though, starting to find his rhythm and focus? Djokovic's game was getting better by this time. However, what Djokovic does indeed have going on for him is the mental edge that he would have over Nadal. Two cross-court backhands and he had the break back, 2-2. "To break that means there are always nerves", added Nadal.

Nadal was under the spotlight in the semifinal against Djokovic, who he had lost to three consecutive times on clay, but he mowed past his former No. 1 and rival in straight sets.

In truth, this was far from Djokovic's best.

"Well, Rafa was obviously a better player today".

Despite the straight-sets defeat, Djokovic said: "It was a positive week, a positive experience".

"I think he played a very good match in Barcelona". I was much, much better and much closer than in Barcelona.

"His quality was very high". "Let's respect his level right now because it's true that perhaps it's not as high as it used to be, but I'm telling you, it's been a lot of years, and I know because I've been in his skin, being up there every single week, being No. 1 every single week, it's almost impossible".

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