Madrid is the middle act of the clay-court season when superstars ride momentum or search for answers. There were plenty of surprises with an excellent week of tennis, but a few highlights stood out. Here are the most notable results that could set the tone for the fabled French Open.
Andy Murray's loss to Borna Coric, 6-3, 6-3
No question that Andy Murray exhausted himself in his mad dash to the No. 1 ranking last November. Even time off with an elbow injury has not helped his serve or declining footwork. He’s got a lot left, but is he already casting an eye to prepare for Wimbledon?
Murray had one loss to a player outside of the Top 50 in 2016 (Delbonis).— Nick Nemeroff (@NNemeroff) May 11, 2017
In 2017, he already has three: Coric, M. Zverev, Pospisil
Dominic Thiem defeated Grigor Dimitrov, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(9)
EPIC! Thiem saves 5 match points and beats Dimitrov from 1-4 down in the 3rd, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(9). Great, great match! QFs vs Coric. pic.twitter.com/8FL3fmwmRY— José Morgado (@josemorgado) May 11, 2017
For all of his talent, Dominic Thiem is a survivor. He has become one of the best clay-courters of the past two years with his capacity to grind out tough matches and the courage to hit big shots. His third-round win over Grigor Dimitrov was one of his finest victories. He saved five match points and showed why he was a French Open semifinalist in 2016.
Could this be the match that drives No. 9-ranked Thiem into an elite contender? Will this galvanize or devastate the No. 12-ranked Dimitrov? Margins are very slim in tennis and often a few big points can make or break a player’s confidence.
Most Amazing Shot
Pablo Cuevas' no-looking winner
Score one for innovation. After a nice exchange and lob from Alexander Zverev, Cuevas did not go with the tweener, opting instead for an underhand winner. No wonder Zverev froze like a statue.
Most Disappointing Match
Rafael Nadal defeated Nick Kyrgios, 6-3, 6-1
It was the King of Clay vs. King Kyrgios, old school vs. new talent, gritty southpaw vs. powerful athleticism. Unfortunately, the young Australian was not quite healthy, and veteran Nadal rolled through the match like just another page from his historical scrapbook.
Best Overall Performer
The Spaniard continued his incredible unbeatable form on clay by taking out Novak Djokovic in the semifinals (snapping a seven-match losing streak against the Serb) and then battling past Dominic Thiem in the final.
This season, Nadal has won Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid thanks to 15 match wins in a row. The last time he pulled off the clay three-peat was in 2013. He would go on to win Roland Garros and the US Open that year.