Sport

Nadal carves through Djokovic to reach Madrid Open final

Nadal carves through Djokovic to reach Madrid Open final

Nadal is now 153-14 with 22 titles at Masters on clay since 2005.

By capturing his 5th Madrid Masters title, Nadal took his tally of career clay-court tournaments to 52, leading the Argentine legend Guillermo Vilas.

Spain's Rafael Nadal clenches his fist as a return goes out in the final of the Madrid Open tennis tournament against Austria's Dominic Thiem in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 14, 2017.

He can also tie Djokovic with 30 titles in Masters 1000 events.

Yet Nadal, coming back into form after two underwhelming years, was quick to play down suggestions that he is already the favourite for the French Open and, by default, the Rome Masters - a tournament he is looking to win for an eighth time.

The left-hander hardly could have asked for a better week in Madrid.




Despite a straight sets defeat to Nadal that suggested the Serb, too, has yet to reach his peak, Djokovic remains buoyed. The Spaniard backed up the strong performance with another championship on Sunday. He lost to Goffin in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo, his first clay tournament of the season.

The Spaniard, who snapped a seven-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic to win their semi-final on Saturday, was given a much sterner test by Thiem than in last month's final of the Barcelona Open.

Thiem, now seventh on the rankings, struck the first blow by breaking Nadal's serve to move into a 3-1 first set lead. The Austrian was dictating play from the middle of the court, blasting forehands to keep Nadal on the run. Anything could have happened at the end of the first set. And with the Austrian feet behind the baseline after consecutive backhands, Nadal would tap a drop shot victor inside the service box. "It's logical that after a hard week, I've been playing a lot of matches, a lot of hours out there on the court, I feel like it's sore, a little bit exhausted".

Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the 12th game and he took the opportunity to draw level at 2-2 but Nadal was in a ruthless mood and hit back immediately with another break to regain a lead he would not relinquish. Winners ended almost half of the points in the 18-point tie-break.

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. Meanwhile, Nadal was bursting with energy, running everything down and seeming to read the Djokovic game easily.

Also, John Isner defeated 14th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-1.


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