Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal prepares for title No. 3



by JOVICA ILIC

Madrid Flashback: Rafael Nadal prepares for title No. 3

The Madrid Masters switched to clay in 2009, welcoming the world's best players in Caja Magica. As was expected, Nadal was among the players to beat in the first six editions, reaching five finals and missing it only in 2012 on blue clay.

Rafa was the defending champion in 2014, seeking his third Caja Magica title. The crowd favorite met his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-final and scored a 6-4, 6-3 victory in an hour and 43 minutes. It was the first meeting between the two Spaniards, and Nadal had to work hard to prevail.

He overpowered the opponent in the mid-range exchanges to find himself in the title match. Bautista Agut grabbed two breaks from four opportunities, but it was not enough for at least a set despite a solid effort. Roberto struggled on the second serve and got broken five times from 13 chances offered to world no.

1. Rafa had more winners than unforced errors. He failed to overpower the rival in the shortest and most advanced exchanges but earned the victory in the rallies with five to eight strokes where he stood miles in front. The defending champion clinched a break in the encounter's first game for the best start.

He placed a forehand down the line winner in game four to open a 3-1 gap and settle into a nice rhythm.

Rafael Nadal ousted Roberto Bautista Agut in the 2014 Madrid Open semi-final.

Bautista Agut broke back in game six when Nadal sent a forehand long, only to lose serve again a few minutes later after a backhand winner from the more experienced Spaniard.

Three winners in game eight sent Rafa 5-3 up, and he secured the opener with a forehand crosscourt winner in game ten for 6-4 after 51 minutes. Like the first, the second set started with a break for a two-time winner. Rafa held at 15 in game two to forge a 6-4, 2-0 advantage and move closer to the finish line.

Bautista Agut sprayed a forehand mistake to find himself 3-0 down, and Nadal landed a forehand winner in the next game to extend the gap. Facing break chances and a possible bagel, Roberto survived a challenging fifth game.

He was back in action when Nadal netted a backhand and lost serve in the next game. With no room for further errors, Rafa held at love in game eight to gain a 5-3 lead and forced the rival to serve to stay in the match. Nadal grabbed another break in game nine with a forehand winner to emerge at the top and reach his fifth final from six trips to Caja Magica.

Rafael Nadal