Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem to win Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal consolidated his flying start to the clay-court season by taking a record-extending fifth Madrid Open title on Sunday, battling past a determined Dominic Thiem to win 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

Nadal will look to seal his fifth title in Madrid in Sunday's final against Dominic Thiem or Pablo Cuevas.

It was Nadals second straight win against the 23-year-old Austrian, coming two weeks after the Barcelona Open final when the fifth-ranked Spaniard cruised to victory in straight sets.

But Nadal survived four break points in an epic next game to finally clinch victory his THIRTIETH Masters title with a sharp volley.

"It was an important match for me because it meant continuing with the good dynamic that I've been carrying for several months", Nadal said. The reason I bring this up is because Thiem is probably the second best clay courter who has played in these tournaments Nadal dominated, especially considering the recent lackluster performances from Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, and Nadal beat him handily both times. Little by little Thiem worked his way back into the breaker, having and saving two set points in succession, but it was Nadal who would edge the first set tie-break.

Thiem is still in the early stages of what promises to be a superb career and the Austrian held sway early on, unleashing a string of punishing ground strokes to break the Nadal serve.

"Things are working out, and I'm very happy for that", he said after his two-hour and 17-minute tussle with a powerful and energetic Thiem.

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"This drop in level for Djokovic has to do with his fight to be No. 1 and to win as many matches as possible", Nadal said.

The pair stayed neck and neck until Thiem lost his nerve and made two unforced errors in a row, gifting Nadal the set. "You never know when it might be the last so I always try to enjoy it". “I saved a few set points playing some good shots with my forehand.

"This is a very emotional period of the season", Nadal told reporters.

The downside for the Italian is he's got a poor record in Rome, winning just five of 14 matches, a fact that puts me off siding with him at 80/1 in the outright market.

With Sunday's victory, Nadal increased his career title count to 72 which includes 52 wins on clay, four on grass and 16 championships on hard courts. "After that I went for it".

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

Thiem was attempting a first Masters 1000 title. If I'm at my best and he's at his best on clay, he's probably the better player.

  • Tabitha Byrd