Rafael Nadal consolidated his flying start to the clay-court season by taking a record-extending fifth Madrid Open title on Sunday, battling past a determined Dominic Thiem to win 7-6(10-8) 6-4.
The Spaniard, who snapped a seven-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic to win their semi-final on Saturday, was given a much sterner test by Thiem than in last month’s final of the Barcelona Open.
Nadal had easily beaten Thiem 6-4 6-1 in Barcelona but got an early scare when he was broken in Sunday’s third game, soon falling 3-1 behind as the Austrian held.
Nadal broke back to win the sixth game and earned three set points at 5-4 but world number nine Thiem saved each one to eventually hold and force the tie-break.
The pair stayed neck and neck until Thiem lost his nerve and made two unforced errors in a row, gifting Nadal the set.
The 14-times grand-slam winner broke in the opening game of the second set and saved a break point in the next, maintaining a two-game advantage until a thrilling 10th game.
The 23-year-old Thiem earned two break points which Nadal saved to move within a point of the title.
Thiem resisted three championship points but Nadal seized the fourth with a drop shot to the back of the court to clinch his third consecutive clay-court crown, after winning in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in April, and the 72nd tournament win of his career.