Rafael Nadal matched Novak Djokovic’s record of having won 30 ATP Masters 1000 titles on, as he outclassed Austrian Dominic Thiem 7-6(8), 6-4 in the final of the Madrid Open on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Spaniard had spanned a losing streak against Djokovic when he beat the Serbian in the semifinal and was a heavy favourite to beat the up-and-coming Thiem in the final on his favourite surface, clay.
To Thiem’s credit, the opening set was anything but straightforward, lasting close to an hour and a half before Nadal eventually prevailed in the tie-break. The Austrian had broken early to take a 2-1 lead in the set, but Nadal would break back to level proceeding at 3-3. Neither player could break again and while the home favourite took the lead in the tie-break, his Austrian opponent briefly staged a comeback before Nadal clinched the set.
Playing his first-ever Masters 1000 final, the Austrian never looked fazed by the occasion and despite being broken in the first game of the second set, continued to fight till the end.
He saved three match-points before Nadal’s sliced backhand down the line beat him, prompting the partisan crowd to roar in unison as they celebrated the ‘King of Clay’s latest triumph.
After wining the Monte Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open and now his fifth Madrid title, Nadal is 15-0 on clay and the overwhelming favourite to lift an unprecedented 10th Roland Garros title later in May.
While the result in the final did not go his way, there are plenty of positives for Thiem, as he is fast emerging as a dangerous player who will be looking to make a deep run at the French Open and is very much a dark horse at the second Grand Slam of the year.