Novak Djokovic was the player to beat in 2011, standing above all the rivals and embracing one of the greatest Open era seasons after a dominant run on every surface. Rafael Nadal remained world no. 1 in the first half of the year, reaching finals but failing to follow Novak's pace, suffering losses against the Serb in Indian Wells and Miami.
Djokovic and Nadal set another Masters 1000 final in Madrid when the Serb beat Thomaz Bellucci 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 10 minutes for the season's 31st straight victory. The Brazilian came to Madrid with 11 Masters 1000 wins under his belt, finding the correct form on the fast clay and ousting top-10 stars Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych to set the battle against Novak.
Thomaz gave his everything in the opening two sets, playing aggressive tennis and staying on a high level until the second set's tenth game when Djokovic grabbed a break to seize momentum, never looking back in the decider.
Novak got broken twice to keep the rival in contention, delivering four breaks from eight opportunities and crumbling the rival's resistance in set number three to advance into his first Caja Magica final. Bellucci had more winners and many more forced mistakes, losing ground against the rival who barely put a foot wrong in the last nine games to finish his best Masters 1000 run in the semis.
Novak Djokovic overpowered Thomaz Bellucci in the Madrid Open semis in 2011.
Nothing could separate them in the more extended rallies with five strokes or move, and Djokovic forged the crucial advantage in the shortest range up to four shots that carried him over the top.
Hammering down his mighty forehand, Thomaz earned a break in the fifth game and served well throughout the set to close it with a service winner at 5-4 after 40 minutes. Serving in the second set's second game, the Brazilian fended off three break chances to remain unbroken.
He closed the game with a forehand winner and secured a break at love when Novak sent a forehand long a few minutes later. Bellucci brought the next game home with a forehand winner to open a 6-4, 3-1 gap against the world's leading player, hoping for more of the same in the remaining service games.
Djokovic had other plans, though, as he secured his first break in game six and scored another following a marvelous defense in the tenth game that gave him the set after a smash winner at the net. With a massive boost on his side, Novak held at love at the beginning of the decider and broke a left-hander for a 2-0 gap, standing with much higher chances than some 15 minutes ago.
Djokovic saved a break chance in the third game to remain in front and seized another return game at 4-1 before sealing the deal with three winners in game seven for a place in the final.