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Watch highlights of Rafael Nadal beating Dominic Thiem to win his fifth Mutua Madrid Open title. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Getty Images photo.

Relentless Rafa Wins Fifth Madrid Crown

Spaniard wins his 30th Masters 1000 title in Spanish capital

Can anyone stop Rafael Nadal on clay this season?

The Spaniard was as relentless as ever on Sunday, answering everything Dominic Thiem tossed at him during the Mutua Madrid Open final to overcome the Austrian 7-6(8), 6-4 in La Caja Mágica.

The 30-year-old Nadal won his fifth Mutua Madrid Open title and his record-tying 30th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown, matching World No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the all-time lead.

Player

Masters 1000 Titles

Rafael Nadal

30

Novak Djokovic

30

Roger Federer

26

Andre Agassi

17

Andy Murray

14

Pete Sampras

11

This season, Nadal improves to 15-0 on clay and has now won three consecutive titles, including two Masters 1000 crowns: Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Mutua Madrid Open. The Spaniard has dropped only two of the 32 sets he's played on the red dirt this year.

“Today is a day to be satisfied, to be happy and to have this trophy,” Nadal said. “This is a very emotional period of the season. I really enjoy these tournaments. I just try to go for all of them. I try to compete. I did well in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, and also here. I hope to do the same in Rome.” 

The left-hander hardly could have asked for a better week in Madrid. Nadal escaped the tricky Fabio Fognini before dismissing Nick Kyrgios and David Goffin in straight sets. In what was billed as a must-see semi-final against Djokovic, Nadal turned the tables on the Serbian, hitting him off the court to end a seven-match losing streak against the World No. 2. The Spaniard backed up the strong performance with another championship on Sunday.

The title, Nadal's 52nd on clay, also shows one more time just how dominant the “Big Four” – Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – have been during this golden age of tennis. The champions have claimed 60 of the past 65 Masters 1000 crowns, dating back to 2010 Monte-Carlo.

'Big Four' Masters 1000 titles since 2010 Monte-Carlo

Djokovic: 25

Nadal: 15

Murray: 10

Federer: 10

Others: 5

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The 23-year-old Thiem was playing in his first Masters 1000 final, but the Austrian hardly looked intimidated against Nadal, who was backed by a friendly Spanish crowd. Thiem broke first for a 2-1 lead, blocking a backhand volley that Nadal couldn't track down. The Austrian was dictating play from the middle of the court, blasting forehands to keep Nadal on the run.

But the Spaniard's defense only elevated as he climbed his way back into the set, evening the first set at 3-3. Nadal found a more friendly back and forth – his forehand to Thiem's one-handed backhand – and pinned Thiem in his backhand corner. And with the Austrian feet behind the baseline after consecutive backhands, Nadal would tap a drop shot winner inside the service box.

“How he plays after his serve, it's unbelievable. He hits so many forehands. You're under pressure after his serve almost every time,” Thiem said.

Neither player would break again in the first set, though. In the tie-break, Thiem continued to challenge the “King of Clay”, erasing set points four and five before Nadal claimed one of the best sets of the year when Thiem sailed a forehand long. Winners ended nearly half of the points in the 18-point tie-break.

Anything could have happened at the end of the first set. But I think I played the important points well,” Nadal said.

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The 30-year-old Spaniard rode momentum to break in the first game of the second set, and Thiem fought to the end. He erased three match points before Nadal sliced a backhand volley for the title.

Nadal receives 1,000 Emirates ATP Rankings points and is expected to climb to No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, surpassing Federer. The Spaniard also will receive €1,043,680 in prize money.

I'm very happy for what I achieved. I think it's difficult to win three different trophies in a row on clay. They are all important championships,” Nadal said.

Thiem will celebrate his best week at a Masters 1000 tournament with 600 Emirates ATP Rankings points and €511,740 in prize money. The right-hander is expected to match his career high at No. 7 when the new Emirates ATP Rankings are released on Monday.

I gave everything that I could,” Thiem said. “But it was a final of a Masters 1000, my first one, against the best player on this surface ever. Sometimes against the best players in the world, you even lose when you play well. That's the thing in tennis: there's only one winner.”