ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal overcomes slow start against Nicolas Almagro

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ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal overcomes slow start against Nicolas Almagro

A year after losing the title match to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal was back in the final in Madrid following a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Nicolas Almagro. Nadal had defeated Monfils on the previous day in straight sets and Almagro proved to be a much tougher opponent, taking the opener before Rafa bounced back to score the sixth triumph over the compatriot and move closer to secure all three Masters 1000 titles on clay in the same season.

Both players struggled on the second serve and it wasn't easy to find the rhythm, with more unforced errors than winners on their tallies. Rafa got broken thrice from six opportunities offered to Nicolas, seizing six from 12 chances on the return to control the pace in sets two and three and remain on the title course.

Nadal had a similar number of winners and unforced errors, forcing more than 30 mistakes from Almagro and overcoming the opponent in the mid-range exchanges to forge the victory after an early scare. Nicolas was there to challenge Rafa in the shortest and most extended rallies but that wasn't enough to cross the finish line first, losing steam in sets two and three and finishing his best Masters 1000 run up to that point in the semi-final.

Nadal sprayed a backhand error in the first game to suffer a break at 15, pulling it back in the next game with a forehand winner at the net to level the score at 1-1. Firing from all cylinders, Nicolas grabbed a break at love in game three and landed a forehand down the line winner in the next one to open a 3-1 gap, followed by a similar shot that earned another break and pushed him further in front.

Rafa pulled one break back in game six to stay in touch before Almagro blasted another powerful forehand for a hold at love in game eight for a 5-3 advantage. Serving for the set in the tenth game, Nicolas fended off two break chances with brave hitting, forcing a mistake from the four-time Roland Garros champion to close the opener in 50 minutes.

In the third game of the second set, Nadal repelled two break opportunities with winners, bringing the game home following a backhand error from Almagro to avoid a set and a break deficit. With the momentum on his side, Rafa grabbed a break in the next game and confirmed it with a hold at 15 to gain a 4-1 advantage, looking much better on the court than 25 minutes ago.

An incredible defense earned another break for Rafa at 5-2, wrapping up the set in the strongest possible way and hoping for more of the same in the decider. Almagro lost the power in his forehand that he had in the opening set, making too many errors and not being able to follow Nadal's pace.

A massive forehand error from Nicolas cost him a break in the second game of the decider, with Nadal placing a forehand winner to forge a 3-0 advantage and move closer to the finish line. Pushing strong on the return, Rafa missed his chances in games four and six but that couldn't stop his progress, hitting a forehand winner at 4-2 for a hold at love and moving over the top with another break in game eight for the place in the 24th Masters 1000 final at the age of 23!