Nadal equals Djokovic record with Madrid triumph
Rafael Nadal's French Open credentials were boosted further when he claimed a record-equalling 30th ATP 1000 title at the Madrid Open on Sunday.
The 'King of Clay' has raised his game since the ATP Tour moved to the red dirt and a 7-6 (10-8) 6-4 victory over Dominic Thiem was his third title in four weeks - strengthening his position as Roland Garros favourite.
In a rematch of the Barcelona Open final on April 30, Nadal was pushed much harder by his Austrian opponent but eventually prevailed as Thiem paid the price for making too many errors.
The title is Nadal's fifth in the capital of his homeland and sees him move level with Novak Djokovic on 30 ATP 1000 crowns, a record he could claim outright if he can triumph in Rome next week.
Nadal's movement was back to his best on Manolo Santana and the fourth seed produced some resolute defensive play when required, while his forehand proved to be a deadly weapon once again.
His backhand shone in the first-set tie-break and, after wasting four set points, the 14-time grand slam champion moved ahead when Thiem blazed a forehand long.
A buoyant Nadal then moved ahead early in the second and despite Thiem's best efforts he could not force a way back into the final.
Imperious on serve, Nadal was able to dictate play from the baseline and when Thiem tried to take control the Spaniard's improving athleticism kept him in rallies.
His fourth win over Thiem in five meetings was confirmed after two hours and 17 minutes as his forehand began to fire in scenes reminiscent of his glory days of years gone by.
Djokovic is now in Nadal's sights in the ATP rankings, this win putting him in sight of the world number two - who he beat in Saturday's semi-final.