Djokovic ready for Nadal clay challenge after ousting Thiem in Madrid

ATP Madrid Rafael Nadal improves his game to dismiss Frances Tiafoe

The Serbian tennis star ended Barcelona champion Thiem's eight-match winning streak with a 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) victory in a thrilling last-four clash of the men's singles event that lasted two hours and 22 minutes.

It was Djokovic's second title of the season, adding to his triumph in the Australian Open.

"This is a very important win for me, especially for my confidence", 15-time Grand Slam victor Djokovic said. So, he was in form.

Earlier in the day two times victor Simona Halep thrashed Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0, 6-0 in just 44 minutes to qualify for the quarter-finals, while number seven seed Kiki Bertens was equally impressive in her last-sixteen tie, beating number 12 seed, Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 6-2 to continue here progress in Madrid without dropping a set.

Rafael Nadal is out of the Madrid Open.

He hadn't won in Madrid since 2016, with his other title in the Spanish capital coming in 2011.

There are just two weeks to go to the year's second tennis Grand Slam - the French Open in Paris.

"I have never faced Djokovic on clay and I don't know what to expect".

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Nadal, who had breezed past the youngster in the Barcelona Open final last season and this year's Australian Open semi-finals, won the second set and looked to have the physical edge over his opponent, who has also been playing doubles in Madrid.

For Halep, the defeat meant a missed opportunity to return to the top ranking, but having just returned from injury it was an encouraging run to the final ahead of her French Open title defence. That is because he was beaten at the semi-final stage in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, two events which he had nearly made his own over the years.

Thiem played well in both sets but Djokovic prevailed in both tiebreakers.

The American worked hard to ensure Nadal could make no further inroads in the opener but that one break was enough to take the set, with little pressure on the favourite's serve.

World number five Thiem had won his past two meetings with Djokovic, both on clay, and broke serve early to take a 2-1 lead.

The 32-year-old, who will be chasing his 18th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, will now face another young talent in America's Frances Tiafoe, with either Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori waiting in the quarter-finals.

"I'd like to thank my team, my brother Marko, who has the role of the coach this tournament", said the 31-year-old.

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