Nadal beats Thiem in Madrid

Wins third straight ti­tle

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY TALES AZZONI THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rafael Nadal de­feated Do­minic Thiem 7-6 (8), 6-4 Sun­day in the Madrid Open fi­nal to win his third straight ti­tle and con­tinue his good form head­ing into the French Open.

Nadal with­stood a tough chal­lenge from the ninthranked Thiem, con­vert­ing on his fourth match point to earn his 15th straight vic­tory on clay and tie No­vak Djokovic’s record of 30 ca­reer ti­tles in Masters 1000 events.

The tri­umph at his home tour­na­ment gave Nadal his 72nd ca­reer ti­tle, and 52nd on clay.

It was Nadal’s sec­ond straight win against the 23-year-old Aus­trian, com­ing two weeks af­ter the Barcelona Open fi­nal when the fifth-ranked Spa­niard cruised to vic­tory in straight sets.

Nadal also won in Monte Carlo last month.

“These last few weeks have been very spe­cial. I’m very happy for what I achieved,” Nadal said. “It means a lot to me to win at home, it’s al­ways a spe­cial place for me.”

Nadal had eas­ily de­feated Thiem in Barcelona, los­ing only five games in a two-set vic­tory, but was forced to work a lot harder on Sun­day.

In an even first set, Nadal had to save two set points in the tiebreaker. The Spa­niard con­verted his fifth set point of the match to take that tiebreaker and go one set up. Nadal broke early in the sec­ond set but was not able to pull away, and needed to save four break points in the fi­nal game be­fore clos­ing out the match.

“Any­thing could have hap­pened at the end of the first set, but I think I played well the im­por­tant points at the end,” Nadal said. “I saved a few set points play­ing some good shots with my fore­hand. Af­ter that I went for it.”

Thiem was try­ing to win his ninth ti­tle, and the first since win­ning the Rio de Janeiro tour­na­ment in the be­gin­ning of the year. It was his first fi­nal in a Masters 1000 event.

“It was a good fight out there. I was much, much bet­ter and much closer than in Barcelona,” Thiem said. “Some­times against the best play­ers in the world, you even lose when you play well.”

Nadal has a tour-lead­ing 34 vic­to­ries in what has been a su­perb sea­son fol­low­ing lean years for the 14-time Grand Slam cham­pion.

He also made it to three fi­nals, los­ing two of them to Roger Fed­erer, in­clud­ing at the Aus­tralian Open.

Nadal, who was out for much of last year be­cause of a wrist in­jury, has won 30 of his last 32 sets go­ing into the tour­na­ment in Rome this week. Then he will try to win his 10th ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros, where he won his last Grand Slam ti­tle three years ago.

He de­feated Djokovic in the semi­fi­nals in Madrid, snap­ping a seven-match win­less streak against the sec­ond-ranked Serb.

It was Nadal’s fifth ti­tle in eighth Madrid Open fi­nals, and the first since 2014. His other ti­tles came in 2005, 2010 and 2013.

AP PHOTO/DANIEL OCHOA DE OLZA

Spain’s Rafael Nadal cel­e­brates win­ning the fi­nal of the Madrid Open ten­nis tour­na­ment in two sets, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, in Madrid, Spain, Sun­day.

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