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  • Nadal returns the ball.

    Nadal returns the ball. | Photo: Reuters

"I was up against an opponent who in the next five to 10 years will be fighting for the most important titles," Nadal told Television Espanola.

Rafael Nadal consolidated his flying start to the clay-court season by taking a record-extending fifth Madrid Open title on Sunday, battling past a determined Dominic Thiem to win 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

The Spaniard, who snapped a seven-match losing streak against Novak Djokovic to win their semi-final on Saturday, was given a much sterner test by Thiem than in last month's final of the Barcelona Open.

Nadal had easily beaten Thiem 6-4 6-1 in Barcelona but got an early scare when he was broken in Sunday's third game, soon falling 3-1 behind as the Austrian held.

Nadal broke back to win the sixth game and earned three set points at 5-4 but world number nine Thiem saved each one to eventually hold and force the tie-break.

The pair stayed neck and neck until Thiem lost his nerve and made two unforced errors in a row, gifting Nadal the set.

The 14-times grand-slam winner broke in the opening game of the second set and saved a break point in the next, maintaining a two-game advantage until a thrilling 10th game.

teleSUR
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