Rafael Nadal claimed his 30th Masters 1000 crown in Madrid 2017, beating Dominic Thiem 7-6, 6-4 after two hours and 15 minutes of extraordinary battle. It was one of the best matches on clay that season, with players pushing each other to the limits all the time, especially in the opener that lasted for almost 80 minutes.
Nadal fended off two set points to take the breaker 10-8, breaking Thiem's serve at the beginning of the second set and staying in front until the end to grab the 15th win from as many matches on clay in 2017, lifting his third straight title and the 72nd in a career.
Chasing his first Masters 1000 crown, Thiem fought like a lion, proving he is the second-best player in the world on the slowest surface at that moment behind Rafa, still falling short of taking at least a set. The Austrian saved two match points on serve in the ninth game of the second set but Rafa stayed focused and brought the match home on his serve a few minutes later, only after repelling four break chances.
Thus, he caught Novak Djokovic on 30 Masters 1000 crowns, with an excellent opportunity of passing the Serb in Rome next week. Thiem tried to become the first player born after 1988 with a notable title, proving his class and the abilities to win big trophies on clay in the future.
In Barcelona final a few weeks ago, he couldn't keep the pace with Nadal after the closing stages of the opening set but was unbelievable in the Spanish capital, chasing Nadal in literally every point and staying in contention for almost two hours and 20 minutes before he finally had to lay his weapons.
Rafa was defending like in his prime, pursuing every ball and forcing his rival always to play one extra shot, taking charge in the most critical rallies with brave and aggressive tennis that earned the title for him. Of course, they couldn't stay on a high level for the entire encounter, but overall, it was a high-quality contest and certainly one of the best matches of the season up to that point.
Nadal played a little better on both the first and second serve, fending off five out of six break chances to avoid turmoils in his games. Thiem was also there, fending off six out of eight break opportunities offered to Rafa, staying close to his rival all the time, with maybe a different outcome had he managed to take the opening set.
Rafa finished the clash with 27 winners and 18 unforced errors, hitting equally good from both wings and having a clear edge in the most extended rallies which gave him the win, with nothing to separate them in the quickest rallies up to four strokes.
Thiem had an early lead, breaking Rafa in game three to open up a 3-1 gap, with the Spaniard pulling it back in game six, recovering his shots and starting to hit with more pace. In game ten, Dominic did a great job of erasing three set points, coming back from 5-3 down in the tie break to earn two set points.
Nadal stayed composed, converting his fifth set point to grab the opener after 78 minutes, winning the fantastic tie break 10-8. Carried by this momentum, Rafa broke at the start of the second set and that would prove to be the critical point of the match.
He saved a break chance in game two to cement the advantage, followed by six commanding holds on both sides. Thiem served to stay in the match at 3-5, fending off two match points and refusing to surrender, moving the entire drama to the final game of the encounter, the longest of the match!
Thiem had four break points but Nadal repelled them all with strong hitting, crossing the finish line on the fourth match point thanks to a beautiful volley that earned the first Madrid crown for him in four years.