Rafael Nadal was a happy camper at the home Masters in 2017. Rafa conquered his fourth trophy in Caja Magica and the first in three years following a 7-6, 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem. The Austrian gave everything to challenge the king of clay, keeping him on the court for two hours and 15 minutes but ending on the losing side.
It was one of the best matches on clay that season. The players always pushed each other to the limits, especially in the opener, which lasted almost 80 minutes. Nadal fended off two set points to take the breaker 10-8 and broke Thiem's serve at the beginning of the second set to stay in front until the end.
Thus, he grabbed his 15th win from as many matches on clay in 2017 and gathered a boost ahead of Roland Garros. Rafa lifted his third straight title on clay that spring and the 72nd in a career. Thiem fought like a lion while chasing his first Masters 1000 crown, proving his status as the second-best clay-courter after Nadal.
The Austrian saved two match points on serve in the second set's ninth game. However, Rafa stayed focused and brought the match home on his serve a few minutes later after repelling four break chances. Thus, he caught Novak Djokovic's 30 Masters 1000 crowns, with an excellent opportunity of passing the Serb in Rome a week later.
Thiem tried to become the first player born after 1988 with a notable title, proving his class and ability to win big trophies on clay. In the Barcelona final a few weeks ago, Thiem could not keep pace with Nadal after the opening set's closing stages.
Still, the Austrian played unbelievable tennis in the Spanish capital, chasing Nadal in every point and staying in contention before he finally laid down his weapons. Rafa defended like in his prime. The home favorite pursued every ball and always forced his rival to play one extra shot, taking charge in the most critical rallies with brave and aggressive tennis.
Of course, they could not stay at a high level for the entire encounter. Still, it was a high-quality contest and certainly one of the season's best matches up to that point.
Rafael Nadal toppled Dominic Thiem to claim the 2017 Madrid Open crown.
Nadal played a bit better on the first and second serve, fending off five out of six break chances and avoiding turmoils in his games.
Dominic was also there, defending six out of eight break opportunities offered to Rafa and staying close to his rival. The outcome could have been different had he managed to take the opening set, but it was not to be for him.
Rafa finished the clash with 27 winners and 18 unforced errors. He hit equally good from both wings and built a clear edge in the most extended rallies that secured his victory, as nothing separated them in the quickest exchanges up to four strokes.
Thiem had an early lead and broke Rafa in game three to open up a 3-1 gap. The Spaniard pulled the break back in game six, recovering his shots and hitting with more pace. Dominic did a great job erasing three set points on serve in game ten, and the set went into a tie break.
The Austrian returned from 5-3 down to earn two set points. Nadal stayed composed, defending them and converting his fifth set point at 9-8 to grab the opener after 78 minutes. Carried by this momentum, Rafa broke at the start of the second set, which proved to be the encounter's critical point.
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 and fended off two match points while refusing to surrender, moving the entire drama to the encounter's final game, the longest of the match!
Dominic had four break points, but Nadal repelled them with solid hitting. The home favorite crossed the finish line on his fourth match point thanks to a beautiful volley that earned his first Madrid crown in three years.
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