Rafael Nadal made history Sunday with his record-tying 30th ATP Masters 1000 title after defeating Austria's Dominic Thiem 7-6 (8), 6-4 in the finals of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Despite being in his home country, Madrid is well-known for being Nadal's "least" successful spring clay event, but he has now achieved four titles, three finals and one semifinal on red clay there, along with an early loss in 2012 when the event made an ill-fated experiment with blue clay. If Nadal were to prevail at Roland Garros, he will become the first player in history to win a Grand Slam tournament on ten occasions. 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 pair served up a sizzling second set, especially in the seventh game when Nadal finally broke the Belgian for a second time in the set at the fourth attempt after sensational rallies which had spectators in the Caja Magica rising to their feet in appreciation.
Currently ranked fifth in the world, the Spaniard will now meet Austrian Dominic Thiem in the final.
Nadal will be expected to continue his dominance over Thiem later on Sunday, May 14, and given the way he has dominated the clay court tournaments this year, the Spaniard will be expected to win the Madrid Open.
"I could have played better", Djokovic said. I'm expecting the best Djokovic tomorrow. "I played well in the first set and although I had a few nerves in the second, that was because I have not beaten him for so long", he commented.
"I'm very happy for what I achieved", Nadal said.
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"Since the beginning, I was playing with a lot of pressure". I won three trophies on the ground this year.
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.
In the absence of world number one Serena Williams, who is pregnant, top seed Angelique Kerber has been drawn in the same quarter as Russian Maria Sharapova, who will play Christina McHale in the first round, and Madrid Open victor Simona Halep.
Talking about the match he said: "I think it was a tough match since the beginning, especially here in altitude, which is hard to make breaks against a player like Thiem". I played well also.
The 14-times grand-slam victor broke in the opening game of the second set and saved a break point in the next, maintaining a two-game advantage until a thrilling 10th game.
A fifth win in Madrid-not to mention his third in the last five years-puts Nadal in great stead for the upcoming French Open, where he also happens to hold the record number of titles with nine wins since 2005.
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