APRIL 22 - MAY 5, 2024

Djokovic makes a statement

Novak Djokovic is in the final of the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open. The world number 1 will fight for what would be his third Masters 1000 in the Caja Mágica (he lifted the Ion Tiriac Trophy in 2011 and 2016), having beat Dominic Thiem in an intense semi-final (7-6[2], 7-6[4]). It will be his second final of the year after the one he played and won (against Rafael Nadal) in the Australian Open, as well as his first title match in a clay tournament since Rome 2017 (lost to Alexander Zverev).

The rivalry between Djokovic and Thiem was in the balance on clay (5-2 overall). With two victories apiece on the surface, so this Saturday’s match in the Manolo Santana Stadium would tip it in the favour of one or the other. The Austrian was coming off the back of two consecutive clay victories against the Serb (Monte Carlo 2018 and the 2017 French Open). As expected, he produced some electric tennis throughout in search of victory.

In the third game of the match, Thiem’s quality on the return won him his first break (2-1). Absorbing everything that was thrown at him and relentlessly barraging his opponent, it always looked like he was the favourite. However, Djokovic refused to budge in the face of his opponent’s assault. Struggling to find his A-game, he waited patiently for his chance, but not without the odd moment of uncertainty in the meantime. His service break would come in the sixth game (3-3), he then managed to hold his serve, not without difficulty, and preserve his energy for the tiebreak. There, Nole took the initiative for the first time. Although Thiem had been brilliant to this point, he could only look on as Djokovic dominated the tiebreak to take the first set.

But the world number 5 was not about to throw in the towel. He remained aggressive, producing an endless stream of hissing winning shots and returns, which often hit the back of the court, literally. In fact, Thiem never gave up trying to break Djokovic’s serve. But he was unable to find a way through in the second and fourth games of the second set and had to wait until the sixth to do so (4-2)… only for the player from Belgrade to give him a taste of his own medicine in the seventh (4-3). The Serbian had ramped up his game once more, this time though the prize he was after was much greater; the match.

However, Thiem kept trying to come back. He had played too well not to believe in himself. And, once again, he dug deep to force the second tiebreak of the semi-final. With Djokovic at 6-5 having just broken serve, the recent champion of Barcelona somehow disassembled the best player in the world’s defences to break his adversary back on his last opportunity. After 2 hours and 25 minutes of battle, Djokovic finally managed to see out the match by dominating the tiebreak, where he showed nerves of steel during the tense points (of which there were many), before sealing his passage to Sunday’s final, where he could take his fourteenth title on clay.