Tennis

Nadal downs Thiem to take Madrid Masters

Rafael Nadal's flawless record on clay this season continued yesterday morning (Singapore time) as he outgunned the impressive Dominic Thiem 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 to win the Madrid Masters for a fifth time.

The Spaniard is now 15-0 on his favoured surface this year, and his third consecutive clay-court crown came after his triumphs in Monte Carlo and Barcelona last month.

All week, the 14-time Grand Slam champion lost just a solitary set, which is why he is now the strong favourite to add a 10th French Open crown next month.

Victory also moves Nadal above Roger Federer to fourth in the world rankings.

Nadal, 30, told Television Espanola: "The truth is I was up against an opponent who in the next five to 10 years will be fighting for the most important titles, so I'm very happy to have won. It was a very exciting game.

"It was a very important final for both of us - for him as it was the first in the Masters 1000 and, for me, it's always special to play here in Madrid in this unique tournament.

"You never know when it might be the last, so I always try to enjoy it."

Thiem also fell victim to Nadal's supreme form in the final in Barcelona two weeks ago, but there was little for the 23-year-old to be dispirited about as he pushed Nadal all the way in his first Masters series final.

"Sometimes against the best players in the world, the best-ever player on this surface, you even lose when you play well," said Thiem, who also rises to a career-high seventh in the rankings.

"Now that I did it once, playing really well in such a big tournament, the next step is to maintain this level next week."

Nadal snapped a seven-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic to win their semi-final on Saturday.

Yesterday morning's victory saw him match Djokovic's record of 30 Masters Series titles and register the 72nd tournament win of his career. - WIRE SERVICES

tennisRafael Nadal