Nadal unstoppable on clay this year as he claims fifth Madrid title

 

By Ros Satar, in Madrid

  • Rafael Nadal def. Dominic Thiem 7-6(8) 6-4
  • Wins now in Monte Carlo (10), Barcelona (10), Madrid
  • Will head to Rome in search of an eighth title
MADRID, SPAIN – Rafael Nadal won his fifth title in Madrid, and is now three-for-three in the run up to that elusive Roland Garros Decima.

 

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Rafael Nadal def. Dominic Thiem 7-6(8) 6-4

It feels ironic that the only times that Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have ever met is on clay, with only one win for the young Austrian in Buenos Aires last year. Since then though it has been one-way traffic for the Spaniard.

Rafael Nadal & Dominic Thiem – 2017 ATP Mutua Madrid Open (c) Christopher Johnson

Thiem, in his first Masters final, took the initiative first, making the most of what seemed like a tardy start from Nadal, breaking and consolidating for a 3-1 lead. Yet revenge was never far away and once Nadal broke back to level at 3-3 there was a feeling of inevitability as Nadal looked solid in his games.

He pressured the Austrian with three set points but Thiem held firm eventually forcing a tie-break and here Thiem will rue his chances. The pair exchanged breaks at the start before Nadal took an early lead. 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.

Nadal was brutal coming in to the second set, breaking straight away, and denying Thiem a chance to try and break back immediately, from that point on no quarter was given until Nadal pushed and pressed fir a break to finish with Thiem saving two match points in the process.

Dominic Thiem – 2017 ATP Mutua Madrid Open (c) Christopher Johnson 

Do not forget, this is the young man who saved five match points against Grigor Dimitrov on his way to finally breaking past the quarter-finals at Masters events. If he was going down, he would be going down with a fight.

He flirted with a break point to level at 5-5 while Nadal was serving for his fifth title in Madrid – a Demi-Decima, if you will. Thiem threw everything but the kitchen sink at Nadal, and he just kept coming, finally converting on his fourth championship point to lift a fifth Madrid title.

He is now three for three in the all important clay court tournaments in the run up to Roland Garros. It has been clear what each of his two previous La Decima wins meant to him, and this was no different, as he sank to his knees on that final winner.

Thiem felt it was an improvement from Barcelona, but it was still cold comfort as his chances had dwindled in the second set.

He said: “Basically I couldn’t do the rebreak until the end of the match. I had some chances in the last game. I didn’t do any bad mistakes at my break chances. He was defending it well.
I think it was a good fight out there. I was much, much better and much closer than in Barcelona. I think I already had worse weeks in my life than this one.

“It was a final of a Masters 1000, my first one, against the best player on this surface ever. Sometimes against the best players in the world, you even lose when you play well. That’s the thing in tennis: there’s only one winner.”

After watching Real Madrid playing in La Liga, Nadal trotted along to press where, as always, e had to bat away the speculation of the Ultimate Decimal.

Talking about the match he said: “I think it was a tough match since the beginning, especially here in altitude, which is difficult to make breaks against a player like Thiem. Returning the ball is difficult, especially when he hits it so high.

“Since the beginning, I was playing with a lot of pressure. Fortunately I managed to come back and break. I think he made an error, so I managed to break again.

“After that, I calmed down. I think I played a good first set. Anything could have happened at the end of the first set. But I think I played well the important points at the end of the first set. I saved a few set points playing some good shots with my forehand. After that I went for it.”

Of course the conversation inevitably moved to the fact that with this win, Nadal has leapfrogged Roger Federer in the rankings, not that he gave much store in the rankings to determine who would lift the title at the French Open. Right now he wants to, and needs to focus on Rome before turning his thoughts to Paris.

He continued: “Today is a day to be satisfied, to be happy, and to have this trophy. I thought I was going to take it, but apparently it’s going to stay here. After tomorrow, I will think about Rome. That’s everything I’m thinking right now.

“This is a very emotional period of the season. I really enjoy these tournaments. I just try to go for all of them. I try to compete. In Monte-Carlo and Barcelona I did well, same here. I hope to do the same in Rome.”

The Internazionali BNL D’Italia 2017 takes place between 14-21 May

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