Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 to win his fifth Madrid Open title and move into the world's top four.
In a rematch of the Barcelona Open final on April 30, Nadal was pushed much harder by his Austrian opponent but eventually prevailed as Thiem paid the price for making too many errors.
In the latest ATP rankings released today, Rafael Nadal climbed one place to fourth in the world on the strength of his Madrid Masters win.
Nadal's movement was back to his best on Manolo Santana and the fourth seed produced some resolute defensive play when required, while his forehand proved to be a deadly weapon once again.
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Djokovic won the last meeting between the pair in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters exactly a year ago, and Nadal had not beaten the 12-time grand slam victor since the 2014 French Open final. However, that lack of recovery time didn't show as Thiem struck the first blow by breaking the Nadal serve to move into a 3-1 first set lead.
As the Spanish "King of Clay" continues to pick up momentum on the dirt courts, Djokovic's French Open title could also come under threat. The set went into a tiebreak and Nadal won by 10 points to eight. Nadal took the eighth game easily, dropping but one point. "But that's how the life cycle is and I just try to be the best version of myself every day". "Sometimes against the best players in the world, the best ever player on this surface, you even lose when you play well", said Thiem, who also rises to a career high seventh in the rankings. Nadal broke early in the second set but was not able to pull away, and needed to save four break points in the final game before closing out the match.
"I felt that the start of the season went really well for me this year", Djokovic said at a press conference from Foro Italico where he will play the Masters 1000 tournament in Rome, according to the ATP official website. Following several injury layoffs he rolled back the clock to make the Australian Open in January in a classic match against Federer. It is the last major tournament leading to the Grand Slam on clay at Roland Garros, Paris.
He defeated Djokovic in the semifinals in Madrid, snapping a seven-match winless streak against the second-ranked Serb. I hope to do the same in Rome. "I am convinced that Thiem will be a candidate to win big tournaments in the following years".