On this day: Rafael Nadal sinks Stan Wawrinka for third Madrid crown


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On this day: Rafael Nadal sinks Stan Wawrinka for third Madrid crown

A left knee injury had kept Rafael Nadal out from the court for more than half a year after Wimbledon 2012, making a comeback in Vina del Mar next February. Horacio Zeballos defeated him in the final but Rafa was on the comeback trail, winning titles in Sao Paulo, Acapulco and Indian Wells before Novak Djokovic halted him in Monte Carlo final, delivering the first loss for the Spaniard in Monte Carlo since 2003.

Nadal was the dominant figure in Barcelona as well and reached the final at home in Madrid, his seventh title match in a row since making the return three months earlier. On May 12, Rafa defeated Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 12 minutes for the 55th ATP crown and third in Madrid, the first since 2010 after letting the throne to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in 2011 and 2012.

This was their ninth meeting (the seventh in a row at Masters 1000 series) and Rafa grabbed them all without losing a set. It was one of the finest serving displays from Rafa on the Tour overall, dropping just seven points on serve and never facing a break point to mount the pressure on the other side.

Also, he claimed 40% of the points on Stan's serve and scored three breaks from 11 chances (six in the opening game of the match), controlling the scoreboard all the time. The Spaniard had more winners than unforced errors while Wawrinka made too many mistakes, unable to penetrate his rival and open the court with his groundstrokes.

A forehand winner gave Rafa an instant break in the first game, converting his sixth break point to make the best possible start of the match and holding at love in game two to cement the advantage. Stan hit a double fault in game three to lose serve again and Nadal made another quick hold with a forehand down the line winner to open up a massive 4-0 lead after only 18 minutes.

The Swiss finally got his name on the scoreboard with a hold in game five although nothing changed on the return as Rafa brought another service game home, increasing the lead to 5-1. Stan reduced the deficit to 5-2 with an ace but the Spaniard was not to be denied, hitting an ace in game eight to close the opener in just over 30 minutes.

The second set kicked off in a much tighter way and Wawrinka reached deuce on the return in game four, for the first and only time. Nadal held with an ace and had a huge chance to break Stan's serve in the next game, with three break points up for grabs.

The Swiss saved them all, winning five points in a row to stay in front before Rafa leveled the score at 3-3 with another unreturned serve that made the difference in this encounter. The pivotal moment occurred in game seven when Stan hit a double fault to give serve away, with Nadal confirming the break with a hold at love after a service winner for a 5-3.

Stan reduced the deficit to 5-4 and that was all we saw from him, with Nadal holding at 15 in game ten to celebrate his fifth title since the comeback, boosting confidence before going all the way in Rome and Roland Garros as well.