This year’s Madrid final has given us yet another flashback into Nadal’s past, but also another glimpse towards Thiem’s future. Nadal hadn’t lost a single clay tournament he had entered coming into this final, winning both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, dropping only one set in Monte Carlo to Kyle Edmund and another to Fabio Fognini here in Madrid. Thiem however, had a disappointing early exit at the hands of David Goffin in Monte Carlo, but was able to successfully bounce back and reach the finals of Barcelona – where he was denied by Nadal in a 6-4 6-1 match. Nearly two weeks later, Thiem and Nadal meet again in the Madrid final, the second to last tournament before Paris.
In the first set, both players were able to hold their serve until a drop shot return from Thiem gave him the break and a 2 – 1 lead. Despite a loathful 20% first serve percentage, Thiem’s solid groundstrokes solidified him a 3 – 1 lead in his next service game. At 2 – 3, Nadal was able to defend against Thiem’s groundstroke onslaught and give himself a break and tied the set 3 -3. Both players were able to defend their service games until 5 – 4, when Nadal had three break points against Thiem to give him the set. Unfortunately, Thiem’s relentless spirit drove him to save all three break points and level the set 5 – 5. Both players held their service games to lead the first set into a tiebreak. Early in the tiebreak Thiem achieved a mini-break, but gave up his lead in the following point. After leveling the tiebreak 6 – 6, Nadal hit a beautiful crosscourt backhand to give him a 7 – 6 lead. Thiem quickly tied the tiebreak up, and hit a spectacular volley to give him a set point at 8 – 7. Nadal quickly fired a forehand down the line to tie the breaker once again. A shank and a forehand out from Thiem give Nadal the first set with the final tiebreak score being 10 – 8.
Nadal broke early in the second set and was able to take a 1 – 0 lead. Despite Thiem having a break point on Nadal in the next game, he failed to convert and Nadal took the lead 2 – 0. Thiem and Nadal continued to hold their service games until Thiem surrendered two Championship Points to Nadal at 5 – 3. An unforced error, a net cord, and his one-handed backhand saved Thiem and he ultimately won the game, leaving the set score at 5 – 4 Nadal. However, Nadal also surrendered two break points to Thiem during his service game, and yet miraculously managed to save both of them. A couple of spectacular forehand winners gave Nadal two break points at deuce, and a risky dropshot and crosscourt volley gave him the match.
By winning Madrid, Nadal achieved a legendary thirty masters titles and adds to the already lengthy list of reasons to fear him going into Paris. With this momentum, Nadal seems to be on track to win Paris and Rome and to reassert his dominance going into the grass season. As for Thiem, this match has showcased his resilient spirit and his endless firepower and gives a glimpse into the bright future ahead of him.