A tournament made to measure


Antonio Arenas Mutua News

This is a 52-chapter love affair that began on 13 October 2003, the day when Rafael Nadal took to the court for his first Mutua Madrid Open. Defeat in his opener that day against Àlex Corretja only served to announce to the world that he could go on to make the tournament his own. And so it was. Since then he has accumulated a unique record in this tournament, including 42 victories. Nobody has made as many appearances in the semis as the Manacor native, who will be looking for his tenth this year.

The Spaniard has been dominating the stats and rewriting the record books ever since the Caja Mágica opened its doors. Nadal has been there for all the semi-finals, except in 2012 where he bowed out in the last sixteen, stringing together four consecutive appearances in the battle to reach the final. But it all started much earlier…

A historical comeback

Year: 2005
Surface: Indoor hard court

Finish: Champion
F. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
SF. Robby Ginepri (USA)
QF. Radek Stepanek (CZE)
3R. Tommy Robredo (ESP)
2R. Victor Hanescu (RUM)
1R. Bye

Rafael Nadal’s packed trophy cabinet includes a sole crown on indoor hard court in the capital from as far back as the 2005 Mutua Madrid Open. The Spaniard cruised through the early rounds without conceding a set, reaching not only his first semi-final, but also his first final. There awaited Ivan Ljubicic, a big-hitting clay-court specialist. The Croat’s ferocious power earned him 32 aces and 87 winners to take a 3-6, 2-6 lead. But, after four hours of play, the Spaniard managed to turn the match on its head to win the last three sets 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in what the player himself told this magazine was his “most special” victory at the tournament.

On a knife-edge

Year: 2008
Surface: Indoor hard court

Finish: Semi-final
SF. Gilles Simon (FRA)
QF. Feliciano López (ESP)
3R. Richard Gasquet (FRA)
2R. Ernests Gulbis (LAT)
1R. Bye

After a season replete with court hours and victories, Nadal came to the Mutua Madrid Open as French Open and Wimbledon champion, the Olympic gold medallist in Beijing and world number one. Following a difficult three-set opener against Gulbis, he breezed past Gasquet and Feliciano to reach the semis. There, an up-and-coming Gilles Simon held the Spaniard at bay and the balance tipped in the favour of the Frenchman in the deciding tie-break (8-6).

The dream final

Year: 2009
Surface: Clay

Finish: Runner-up
F. Roger Federer (SUI)
SF. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
QF. Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
3R. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER)
2R. Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
1R. Bye

In the first year on clay, the Mutua Madrid Open threw up a dream final between Rafael Nadal and world number two Roger Federer. The twenty-first century’s great rivalry would have a chapter in the Caja Mágica. The Spaniard reached the match after an intense four-hour marathon against Djokovic that ended 11-9 in the tie-break. For his part, the Swiss barely had to lift a finger against Del Potro. Federer triumphed in the decider on the Madrid clay, 6-4, 6-4.

Revenge

Year: 2010
Surface: Clay

Finish: Champion
F. Roger Federer (SUI)
SF. Nicolás Almagro (ESP)
QF. Gael Monfils (FRA)
3R. John Isner (USA)
2R. Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
1R. Bye

One year later and it was the same two players on the same stage. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met again in the Caja Mágica to battle it out for the title, which this time changed hands (6-4, 7-6). The Spaniard won his second trophy at the Mutua Madrid Open, the same number held by the Swiss at the time, meaning they shared the honour of being the champion with the most titles.

The best of Djokovic

Year: 2011
Surface: Clay

Finish: Runner-up
F. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
SF. Roger Federer (SUI)
QF. Michael Llodra (FRA)
3R. Juan Martín Del Potro (ARG)
2R. Marcos Baghdatis (CHY)
1R. Bye

For the first time in his career, Nadal had the chance to defend his crown. After a brilliant comeback in the semi-finals against Federer, the season’s surprise package awaited on the other side of the net; Novak Djokovic. The Serb had reached the final without being defeated in 2011, with 31 consecutive victories to his name and a 2-0 lead in their head-to-head that year after the finals at Indian Wells and Miami. Until then the Belgrade native had not beaten the Spaniard on clay, but the Caja Mágica witnessed the best of Djokovic, who ended up with the title. Three years on clay, three different champions.

Rafa returns

Year: 2013
Surface: Clay

Finish: Champion
F. Stan Wawrinka (SUI)
SF. Pablo Andújar (ESP)
QF. David Ferrer (ESP)
3R. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
2R. Benoit Paire (FRA)
1R. Bye

After his shortest stay at the tournament since 2004, bowing out in the third round to Fernando Verdasco in 2012, the Manacor native was back in force in 2013. He made it through a three-set war of attrition in the quarters against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, and stormed past Stan Wawrinka in a one hour and 12 minute final to claim the title. Federer had lifted his third title the previous year, and Nadal responded one season later to match it with his own hat-trick.

His first defence

Year: 2014
Surface: Clay

Finish: Champion
F. Kei Nishikori (JPN)
SF. Roberto Bautista (ESP)
QF. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
3R. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)
2R. Juan Mónaco (ARG)
1R. Bye

For the first time in the history of the tournament a player managed to string two titles together. Nadal not only defended his title successfully, he also became the player with the most triumphs at the Mutua Madrid Open thanks to his quartet of trophies from 2005, 2010, 2013 and 2014. After a peaceful week, conceding an average of five games per match on his route to the final, there he met a tough Nishikori, who threatened an upset, but eventually had to withdraw injured in the third set (2-6, 6-4, 3-0 WD).

Upset from Murray

Year: 2015
Surface: Clay

Finish: Runner-up
F. Andy Murray
SF. Tomas Berdych (CZE)
QF. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
3R. Simone Bolelli (ITA)
2R. Steve Johnson (USA)
1R. Bye

For a third consecutive year, Nadal was in the final of the Mutua Madrid Open, but this time an Andy Murray in the form of his life on clay stood in his way. The Scot came to the Caja Mágica after overcoming one of the biggest challenges of his career just one week before; winning a trophy on clay. The Dunblane native left the Spanish capital with his best streak on the surface, with 9 victories, no defeats and his first ATP Masters 1000 on the red dust.

Semi-finals once again

Year: 2016
Surface: Clay

Finish: Semi-final
SF. Andy Murray (GBR)
QF. Joao Sousa (POR)
3R. Sam Querrey (USA)
2R. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS)
1R. Bye

Nadal was back in his usual spot in the semi-finals for the ninth time in the history of the tournament and the fourth time on the trot. Again the Mallorcan crossed paths with Andy Murray, in a year in which he surpassed 40 victories at the tournament.