Defending his Caja Mágica crown proved out of reach. Rafael Nadal could find no way past Dominic Thiem, the 7-5, 6-3 victor in the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open. In a clash between the ATP World Tour’s kings of clay, the Austrian made himself a strong favourite for the cup.
“Of course I’m disappointed”, said Nadal, whose run of 12 uninterrupted victories on clay has come to an end. “I tried to come back and the story ends there. There are days when you don’t play as well as you’d like to and when that happens it’s because the opponent is playing well and I congratulate him”.
The world number 1 made a calm analysis of his defeat, in search of solutions for future challenges. “Three weeks ago I beat him in 6-0, 6-2 in Monte Carlo and today I lost. I don’t think he has my number, today was a match in which he played better than me”, stated the five-time champion.
Nadal was self-critical in his evaluation of the match and spoke about how it slipped from his grasp. “My forehand drive wasn’t good enough, when I hit my backhand onto his forehand I was hardly ever ready to get into the court”, indicated Rafa, who was punished by 27 winners from his opponent. “It’s a snowball effect and if you don’t hit your first ball well enough it’s difficult because it comes back much harder”.
The defeat to the world number 7 did not come as a complete surprise. The Austrian Thiem who also saw off the Spaniard in the quarter-finals in Rome in 2017, has produced the last two wins on clay over Nadal on tour. “I know who I’m playing against when he plays well. It’s not an easy sport, the differences are small in matches like this, when two of the top players in the world meet it is logical that whoever plays best wins”, said a Nadal who was well aware of the standard he failed to produce in the tie.
“When you’re playing well and things are straight forward, shots that are easy seem easier, and when you aren’t playing so well everything seems more difficult and today was one of those days. I didn’t play well and all the shots seemed more difficult, I never really timed the ball well”, he admitted.
After a week of intensity and hard work, the Spaniard left the Manolo Santana Stadium to a standing ovation. The affection of the Caja Mágica for their biggest champion was affirmed once again.