Staged at Caja Magica, the Mutua Madrid Open had switched the surface from indoor hard to clay in 2009, finding its place in the calendar in May and joining Monte Carlo and Rome as one of the three most significant events ahead of Roland Garros.
The Spanish capital has been holding the Masters 1000 tournament since 2002 but the world's best players will have to skip Caja Magica in September, as the event had to be canceled due to the coronavirus. The five-time champion Rafael Nadal will not have the opportunity to compete in front of the home crowd, even though he was looking forward to that after skipping the US Open and practicing on clay.
Still, world no. 2 backs the organizers and their decision, saying it wouldn't be possible to host so many players from different parts of the world. A year ago, Nadal lost in the semi-final to Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours and 34 minutes, despite taking six points more than the young Greek.
Nadal served at 73%, but that brought him nothing, facing 14 break points after barely losing a point behind the initial shot against Wawrinka on the previous night. Stefanos sprayed almost 30 forehand unforced errors but managed to tame his strokes and deliver 32 winners, leaving Nadal on a 28-31 ratio, which wasn't enough for the triumph.
Nothing could separate them in the shortest and most extended exchanges, and Stefanos won the battle in those rallies between five and eight shots, returning well and keeping his backhand safe to find the way towards the finish line and one of his best wins.
The opening set lasted for almost an hour, pushing each other to the limits and offering 13 break chances.
Rafael Nadal will not be able to chase title at home Masters 1000 event in September.
At 4-4, Stefanos grabbed a pivotal break, saving a break point in the next game to seal the first set and boost confidence ahead of the rest of the encounter.
Nadal delivered his best tennis in set number two, outplaying the opponent completely for a 6-2 after rattling off the last four games, looking like the favorite in the deciding set. Instead of that, Stefanos found the range on the return again, sending deep balls and keeping the points on his racquet with bold tennis that secured three consecutive breaks for him, converting the fourth match point at 5-3 to book the title clash with Novak Djokovic.
"The health situation makes it very difficult for events of this caliber to be held with players from all over the world, and many who would have come from New York. The situation in recent days in Spain couldn't be completely controlled due to the virus outbreak, and therefore you have to have a little patience to see how things go.
A tournament of this level is not organized from one day to the next. On a financial level, I understand that a tournament in these conditions, without the crowd and all the protocols that must be followed, would have been a disaster for the promoters.
Things have to go well for everyone, the players, the organizers, and the city. If there had been infections, it would have come out negatively. For me it has been a sensible and coherent decision," Rafael Nadal said.