Rafael Nadal warms up for French Open with victory in Madrid

Hope Soto
May 17, 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.

With a victory on Sunday, he would tie Djokovic atop the Masters 1000 titles leaderboard with his 30th crown.

Nadal, who ended a seven-match losing streak against World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in their semi-final on Saturday, was given a much sterner test by Thiem than in last month's final of the Barcelona Open.

“Anything could have happened at the end of the first set, but I think I played well the important points at the end, ” Nadal said.

The first game of the second set suggested not: two dire misses and it was break point, and a netted forehand finished it off.

The first set last one hour and 18 minutes, before Nadal broke his opponent early in the second to set up a win that will move him to number four in the world when the new rankings are announced today. I mean, he was controlling the game from beginning to the end.

But the return to contention of Federer and Nadal is also probably what has pushed Djokovic to make the changes needed to overcome the latest challenge in his career. If I'm at my best and he's at his best on clay, he's probably the better player.

"He (Goffin) demands the most of you, he's one of the best in the world, one of the candidates to win the most important trophies".

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While we have seen Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic replaced as the best players - certainly on form if not (yet) in the rankings - I'll freely admit I hadn't expected Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to fill the void. What I'm really happy about is to achieve a title like this here in Madrid.

Early signs weren't good for Thiem after a break between sets as he surrendered his serve at the first time of asking, and despite keeping his enemy stuck to his own baseline at times, the Spanish native spun the fixture in his favour.

"I think he played a very good match in Barcelona". He erased three match points before Nadal sliced a backhand volley for the title.

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

Nadal's other Madrid Open titles came in 2005, 2010, 2013 and 2014. It was his first final in a Masters 1000 event. "I was much, much better and much closer than in Barcelona", Thiem said.

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.

First, though, Nadal will be entirely focused on Madrid, but he will certainly be the favourite against either No8 Dominic Thiem or the unseeded Pablo Cuevas-though each has claimed a clay win over Nadal in the past. He also beat Djokovic in Monte Carlo where he made the semis. "I hope to do the same in Rome (in this week's Italian Open)".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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