Rafael Nadal beats Dominic Thiem to win fifth Madrid open title

Roger Federer takes the first quarter of the year to himself, while Rafael Nadal takes the second. It’s 2017, and not 2007 for sure! Proving justice to his nickname, Rafael Nadal triumphed in Madrid, which was a kind of replay of the Barcelona final from last month. On the two occasions, he defeated the strong and very determined, Dominic Thiem in straight sets.

The two broke each other once in the first set, pushing the set to a tie-break. The tie-break was a story of the long rallies, fierce backhands, as none of them was ready to leave a shot unattended.Thiem started the match more aggressively and led 3-2 with a break, mainly due to his pounding forehand. After the first five games, Thiem’s average forehand speed was faster than Nadal’s (137kmh to 124kmh), and he even had more spin on the ball as well (3507 rpm to 3417 rpm). The average forehand speed slowed as the match progressed, with Thiem averaging 126kmph to 114kmph for Nadal. Conclusively, Nadal won the tie-break in 18 points in a cut-throat rally, as Thiem lost his serve to give Nadal the set, 7-6(8).

A more splendid and a promising performance was next expected from Thiem in the second set, as he had converted 100% break points, and had won 83% service games, to Nadal’s 20% break point conversion and 81% service games. The long rallies also served the purpose of fatiguing Thiem both physically and mentally, especially after such a gruelling opening set that included 96 points. 56% of total points for the match were played in the “First Strike” zero-to-four rally length, with Thiem having the slight edge, 46-44.Thiem also won the mid-length rally length of five to nine shots, 22-21, but it was the 17 per cent of total points in the “Extended Rallies” of greater than nine shots where Nadal crafted his edge in the first.

The 30-year-old Spaniard rode momentum to break in the first game of the second set, and Thiem fought to the end. He saved three match points before Nadal sliced a backhand volley for the title.

With a strong service, Thiem got broken once in the second, while Nadal won 100% service games. It was more of a mental game than the physical one for the Austrian. Nadal took advantage of deep court position of Thiem, by suddenly going short, and winning the drop shots cleanly, from either the right baseline or a bit on the inside.

Nadal received 1,000 rankings points and is expected to climb to No. 4 in the ATP Rankings, surpassing Federer. Thiem will celebrate his best week at a Masters 1000 tournament with 600 rankings points and is expected to match his career high at No. 7 when the new ATP Rankings are released on Monday. The 30-year-old Nadal won his fifth Mutua Madrid Open title and his record-tying 30th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, matching World No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the all-time lead, followed by Roger Federer at 26 titles. This season, Nadal stands at 15-0 on clay and has now won three consecutive titles, including two Masters 1000 crowns: Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Mutua Madrid Open. The Spaniard has dropped only two of the 32 sets he’s played on the red dirt this year.

“Today is a day to be satisfied, to be happy and to have this trophy,” Nadal said. “This is a very emotional period of the season. I really enjoy these tournaments. I just try to go for all of them. I try to compete. I did well in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, and also here. I hope to do the same in Rome.” Nadal said.

“How he plays after his serve, it’s unbelievable. He hits so many forehands. You’re under pressure after his serve almost every time,” Thiem said. “I gave everything that I could, but it was a final of a Masters 1000, my first one, against the best player on this surface ever. Sometimes against the best players in the world, you even lose when you play well. That’s the thing in tennis: there’s only one winner.”

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