Rafael Nadal picked up, on paper at least, his best win of the 2017 season, crushing his rival Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals today at the Madrid Masters.
Rafa had lost seving straight matches and 15 straight sets to Djokovic since the 2014 French Open final.
Nadal was made to work harder in front of a partisan crowd in the second set as the reigning champion dug deep to defend his title with pride.
But, having appeared to quickly settle into the groove in his maiden ATP Masters 1000 semi-final, the world number 27 produced some loose shots in the fifth game that cost him a decisive break.
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.
"I can not promise to play or pull out right now", he said.
"I think I played a really good first set", he said.
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Thiem booked his place in a first ever Masters series final with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas in a match that finished just after midnight local time. "For Novak, they were really good years".
On the women's side, Simona Halep of Romania won her second straight Madrid title by defeating Kristina Mladenovic of France 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in almost three hours, becoming the first player to successfully defend the title since Serena Williams in 2013.
"It's true that some matches are more important than others".
Real Madrid great Raul and all-time top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo were among those watching in the stands in the Caja Majica on a scorching day in the Spanish capital in as Madrid fan Nadal continued his rampant start to the year.
Again Djokovic's level improved as the set wore on to make Nadal serve it out. "It was a attractive game, we both played at the very highest level and there were great points for everyone to see", Nadal told Spanish Television.
And he took the match on his second match point to set up the date with Nadal. I was getting a lot of balls back. "As I go along, I hope to continue getting better and getting stronger". The semifinal in question is scheduled for Saturday and would've been played out by the time you read this. "It was a positive week and a positive experience". Just his quality was very high. "It shows you you're working in the right way", said Nadal, who has thrived after two years struggling with his game.
Nadal was hitting forehand winners from all over the court and he comfortably saw out the first set before breaking again at the start of the second.
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