ThrowbackTimes Madrid: Rafael Nadal downs Dominic Thiem for Masters 1000 crown No. 30

Rafael Nadal claimed the 30th Masters 1000 crown in Madrid 2017, beating Dominic Thiem 7-6, 6-4 after two hours and 15 minutes of extraordinary battle. It was one of the best matches on clay that season, with players pushing each other to the limits all the time, especially in the opener that lasted for 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 and grab the 15th win from as many matches on clay in 2017. Thus, Rafa lifted his third straight title on clay that spring and the 72nd in a career. Chasing his first Masters 1000 crown, Thiem fought like a lion, proving he is the world’s second-best player on the slowest surface at that moment behind Rafa but falling short of taking at least a set. The Austrian saved two match points on serve in the ninth game of the second set, but 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 on 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 the abilities to win big trophies on clay. In the Barcelona final a few weeks ago, Thiem couldn’t keep pace with Nadal after the opening set’s closing stages. Still, the Austrian played unbelievable tennis in the Spanish capital, chasing Nadal in literally every point and staying in contention for almost two hours and 20 minutes before he finally had to lay down his weapons. Rafa defended like in his prime, pursuing every ball and forcing his rival to always play one extra shot, also taking charge in the most critical rallies with brave and aggressive tennis. Of course, they couldn’t stay on a high level for the entire encounter, but overall, it was a high-quality contest and certainly one of the best matches of the season up to that point.

Rafael Nadal toppled Dominic Thiem to claim the 2017 Madrid Open crown.

Nadal played a little better on both the first and second serve, fending off five out of six break chances to avoid turmoils in his games. Thiem was also there, fending off six out of eight break opportunities offered to Rafa and staying close to his rival, with maybe a different outcome had he managed to take the opening set. Rafa finished the clash with 27 winners and 18 unforced errors, hitting equally good from both wings and building 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 before the Spaniard pulled it back in game six, recovering his shots and hitting with more pace. In game ten, Dominic did a great job of erasing three set points and came back from 5-3 down in the tie break to earn two set points.

Nadal stayed composed, 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 all with solid hitting, crossing the finish line on the fourth match point thanks to a beautiful volley that earned the first Madrid crown for him in four years.

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