Nadal snaps winless streak vs. Djokovic to reach final

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Spain's Rafael Nadal celebrates scoring a point in the final of the Madrid Open tennis tournament against Austria's Dominic Thiem in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 14, 2017.

MADRID (AP) - Novak Djokovic remains optimistic despite yet another disappointing result in what has been a frustrating season.

"It was a game where I had to play well".

Still, the second-ranked Djokovic left Spain with reason to feel good about his game. These tournaments are so strong, so it's incredible for me to go that far. "I felt like I was playing well throughout the week". The clear favorite for Roland Garros and having accomplished all of his immediate goals, the question now becomes if Nadal, at nearly 31, even plays Rome or elects to rest.

"It was time for me to win, it has been a long time before I even won a set against Djokovic", said Nadal after his victory. "But, again, I just had an opponent that was too good. You never know when it might be the last so I always try to enjoy it".

However, that run was emphatically ended as Nadal, willed on by a fervent home support including Cristiano Ronaldo in the VIP boxes, made the flawless start by breaking the Djokovic serve to love.

Djokovic didn't have to play the quarterfinal in Madrid because Kei Nishikori withdrew before the match because of a wrist injury.

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The Spaniard came through a tense final game, fending off a break point before converting his third match point and closing on a fifth Madrid title.

Victory also ensured Nadal closes the gap on Djokovic's lead in their head-to-head record to 26-24. The Spaniard will look to win the Madrid Masters and the upcoming Italian Open en route to a potential 10th French Open title next month.

"These last few weeks have been very special".

"I'm just going to go along, and in the next three, four weeks maximum, I'll make my decisions around that, about the team", Djokovic said. Nadal is by far the best clay court player of all time, and he's dominated the surface in a way that no other player has dominated any other surface. He did get the better of me in most of the stats, most of the shots. I lost a lot of times in a row.

Among Djokovic's losses this season was a second-round defeat to Denis Istomin at the Australian Open.

Thiem was trying to win his ninth title, and the first since winning the Rio de Janeiro tournament in the beginning of the year.

"There's no blame on anyone, it's down to me", Murray said after an error-strewn performance against Coric.

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