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By Chris Oddo | Sunday May 14, 2017

The flawless clay-court season of Rafael Nadal continues.

The Spaniard battled past a very spirited Dominic Thiem on Sunday in Madrid to claim his third consecutive title and his fifth at the Mutua Madrid Open, 7-6(8), 6-4. It was Nadal's second victory over Thiem in as many events. He also beat Thiem in the Barcelona final in a much more lopsided contest. Nadal improves to 4-1 lifetime over the 23-year-old with today's win, and 34-5 in 2017 (15-0 on clay).

Video: Nadal Converts Championship Point to Win Madrid Title

Nadal has won 30 of 32 sets he has played during a three-city jaunt through Europe that has seen him claim titles in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

Rome, where the Spaniard is a seven-time champion, beckons.

“Things are working out, and I'm very happy for that,” he said after his two-hour and 17-minute tussle with a powerful and energetic Thiem. “I just try to go to each tournament to give the best of myself, being conscious when you are in the good way, as I am this year, I have confidence and security in myself.”

Nadal had to battle early and battle late to avoid dropping a set to the Austrian. Thiem drew first blood with a break for 2-1, but Nadal, using the drop shot often to take advantage of Thiem’s court depth, broke back for 3-3. Seemingly in control with a triple-set point as Thiem served at 4-5, Nadal had his momentum stopped by the courageous shotmaking of Thiem.

The Austrian held, and saved two more set points in the first-set tiebreaker. He even had a set point of his own with Nadal serving at 6-7, but the Spaniard eventually rose above his foe and converted his fifth set point to take the opener.

“I think it was a good fight out there,” Thiem said after the match. “I was much, much better and much closer than in Barcelona. I think I already had worse weeks in my life than this one.”

Nadal broke in the opening game of set two and made it stand up. But again it was not easy. Thiem saved two championship points to hold for 4-5 and then earned four break points against Nadal’s serve in the next game.

But the Spaniard, buoyed by his belief and eager to avoid a third set, would earn two more championship points, converting the fourth with a backhand volley winner.


“This is a very emotional period of the season,” Nadal told reporters. “I really enjoy these tournaments. I just try to go for all of them. I try to compete. In Monte-Carlo and Barcelona I did well, same here. I hope to do the same in Rome.”

There are some that worry that Nadal is playing too much tennis and they are already calling for Nadal to exercise caution and skip next week’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The Spaniard started the clay season strong last season but picked up a wrist injury that plagued him in Madrid and Rome and eventually led to his shocking withdrawal at Roland Garros.

Nadal knows there are reasons to be cautios, but he appears unwilling to give up his chance to pick up more momentum at Rome next week. He was asked about his physical state in his post-tournament press conference and had the following to say:

“Physically I'm feeling fit,” he said, when he was asked if he was struggling to walk after the final. “It's logical that after a hard week, I've been playing a lot of matches, a lot of hours out there on the court, I feel like it's sore, a little bit tired. Because I'm not walking perfectly doesn't mean I have an injury. I'm just a little bit sore, tight. I'm 31 years old. That's all.”

He added: “Right now the results are there, and that gives me more capacity to keep on doing things. Tomorrow I'll wake up with joy, and I will want to do things even better. That's the joy that keeps you going, that keeps you alive.”

Notes and Numbers

Nadal tied Novak Djokovic for the all-time lead in Masters 1000 titles with 30.


Since 2010 Monte-Carlo the Big 4 have won 60 of the 65 Masters 1000 titles on offer (Djokovic 25, Nadal 15, Murray 10, Federer 10).

Nadal improves to 47-10 with five titles at Madrid.

Thiem was attempting to become the first ATP Masters 1000, ATP Finals or Grand Slam champion born after 1988.

 

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