Nadal Crowned Champion of @MutuaMadridOpen
Niall Clarke in Madrid
Rafael Nadal is champion of Madrid after beating Dominic Thiem in the final today, 7-6(8), 6-4.
It was a nervy start for Nadal who lacked his usual intensity in the beginning of the match. It allowed Thiem to feel his way in, and he got the first break of the match at 1-1. The Austrian deployed the tactic of countering Nadal’s top spin forehand with high looping backhands and doing the attacking from the forehand side, and it worked, until Nadal started to raise his level. The Spaniard lifted his intensity and we began seeing the amazing defence we’ve come to expect from the former world number one. The dropshot became a successful tactic as Thiem was stood far behind the baseline, and Nadal would break back in the middle of the set. The Spaniard held to 5-4 and the pressure was on Thiem to serve to stay in the set.
The nerves seemingly struck the Austrian as a few tight errors saw him go 0-40 down. But Thiem came back strong with some big serving and some crushing forehands to save the breakpoints and remain in the set. A Tiebreaker was needed to separate the pair, and it was to be an incredibly tight one. Set points were saved either way, but a forehand error gave Nadal the opener 10-8 in the breaker.
Nadal would ride the momentum into the second set where he would break in the first game. Thiem responded by generating a break point chance of his own the following game, but he was unable to convert. Thiem tried his best to hang in the match, but at 5-3 Nadal upped his game even further, hitting some great forehands on the run to set up match point. The Austrian saved the first with a big serve, then the second also went begging. Thiem held serve and Nadal was forced to serve it out.
It was a tough game for Nadal as Thiem’s bold play brought him four break points, but Nadal was able to save them with some big serves and forehands. A match point came and went, but on the fourth time of asking, Nadal made no mistake. A volley sealed the match and Nadal’s fifth Madrid Open title.
“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,” Nadal said post match.
“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.”
“I knew at the beginning of the second set, it was going to be very important. Once you finish a first set like that, it’s normal to lower your level a little bit. I had to play well in the second set. I started with a break, so that was very good towards what I had to do after that.”
The Spaniard is looking like a hot favourite to take home La Decima at Roland Garros. He is unbeaten during the European clay season, and showed a good level this week, especially in his win over Novak Djokovic in the semi finals. This is Nadal’s 30th Masters 1000 title, a joint record with Djokovic.
Thiem made a good account of himself in the final, but he did not take his chances in the first set which ultimately proved costly. It was still a better performance than the one against Nadal in Barcelona, something Thiem commented on post match:
“I was trying to get my first-serve percentage a little bit higher, then also change a little bit my return. It’s, I think, one of biggest weapons, the serve. Even that it’s not that hard or not that strong, but how he plays after his serve, it’s unbelievable. He hits so many forehands. You’re under pressure after his serve almost every time.”
“I tried to change it up a little bit. It was better than in Barcelona.”
It has still been a positive week for the Austrian . He played well and made his first masters 1000 final. It could serve as a big confidence booster for Thiem with Rome and Roland Garros on the horizon.
“It were unbelievable two weeks in Spain: Barcelona and Madrid,” Thiem added.
“I’m going to enjoy the next hours, then I’ll think about Rome. It’s, again, a big and important tournament. Now that I did it once, play really well in such a big tournament, next step is to maintain this level to the next week. That’s what I will try.”