Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will contest the decisive match on Sunday at the Casa Majica in Madrid for the fourth Master’s 1000 title in 2019 after beating the Barcelona champion Dominic Thiem of Austria and the five time former champion Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay respectively on Saturday.
The top seeded Djokovic, winner in 2011 and 2015 beat the Austrian 7-6(2),7-6(4) in the first semi-final, while the Estoril Open Champion from Greece was too strong for the Spaniard as he kept his nerve to win 6-4,2-6,6-3.
The Australian Open champion, Djokovic, who has not won any tournament in three outings since his record 7th title in Melbourne, had lost his previous two meetings on clay against Thiem, who is now assured of a career high no. 4 in the rankings. He was riding an eight match winning streak which includes his come from behind win against the three time champion Roger Federer saving two set points in the second set tie-break on Friday in the quarter final.
As expected the match was a close contest lasting two hours and twenty minutes on Court Manuel Santana, but while Djokovic converted on all three break point chances he had in the match, the Austrian only converted thrice out of ten opportunities which proved decisive. Djokovic improves to 6-2 in his career head to head record against Thiem. While Djokovic had a walkover from Marin Cilic of Croatia who went down with food poisoning, Thiem came back from the brink of defeat to oust Roger Federer 3-6,7-6(11),6-4 in the Quarter-finals.
In the second semi-final played in the evening session, the eighth seeded Tsitsipas, who had lost all seven sets in his three encounters against Nadal, showed little signs of being intimidated by the Eleven time champion of the French Open as he took the first set 6-4. Not surprisingly Nadal responded with typical grit as he raced past his opponent 6-2 in the second set.
Tsitsipas who converted on six if the 14 break point chances went up by two breaks of serves in the second set as Nadal missed a simple volley at the net to go down 2-5 in the decider. Although Nadal got one break back and went 30-0 up in the ninth game, Tsitsipas was not denied on his third match point as he took the final set 6-3. Tsitsipas who saved 11 of the 16 break points he faced is now 1-3 against the Spaniard in their head to head which includes a straight sets loss at the Australian Open Semi-final this year in Melbourne and last year’s Barcelona final.
Tsitsipas, who won the battle of the two NextGen superstars when he beat the defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany 7-5,3-6,6-2 in the Quarter-finals has won two titles this year and has a 27-9 record in 2019. He triumphed in Marseille in February and last week in Estoril. Nadal had entered the last four stage after whipping the 2015 French Open Champion Stanislas Wawrinka losing only three games. He is still searching for his first title in 2019 and next heads to the Foro Italico in Rome where he has won eight times.
Prediction :- Djokovic who is 19-4 this year lost the only meeting against Tsitsipas in Toronto last year. There will be the added pressure or incentive of catching up with Rafael Nadal’s record of 33 Master’s titles which he can equal with a win in his third Madrid final on Sunday.
This should be an exciting contest and I would tip Djokovic to come out on top in possibly three hard fought sets. A win for Tsitsipas guarantees him of his highest ever ranking of Six and also becoming the first player from Greece to lift a Master’s title.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: email@example.com]