After a couple of early Caja Magica exits, Novak Djokovic was back at his best in Madrid in 2016, beating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6 in just under two hours for the first title match in the Spanish capital in five years. It was their tenth meeting and the eighth triumph for the Serb, the seventh in a row after that 2014 US Open defeat, ousting one of the most consistent players in Caja Magica in the last couple of years and earning a chance to play for the record-breaking 29th Masters 1000 title against Andy Murray.
They both had more winners than unforced errors and Novak forged his triumph in the forced errors department, having the upper hand in the shortest exchanges up to four strokes and delivering better tennis when it mattered the most to seal the deal in straight sets.
Nishikori toppled world no. 1 in the most extended exchanges but it wasn't enough to keep him safe, converting one out of five break chances and suffering two breaks to propel Novak into the title clash. Three of those five opportunities on the return for Kei came in the first game of the encounter, denied by Novak who avoided an early setback, earning a break at 4-3 when Nishikori sent a forehand long and securing the opener with a hold at 30 for a 6-3 after 40 minutes.
The Japanese fended off two break chances at the beginning of the second set, repelling two more at 2-2 with winners before Djokovic landed a backhand winner to secure a break and open a set and a break advantage. Former champion saved a break point at 4-3 with a forehand winner, remaining in front and serving for the win at 5-4.
Staying focused, Kei defended four match points to pull the break back and prolong the encounter until the tie break that Djokovic won 7-4 to move over the top after some scary moments in the closing stages of the set.