Nadal disposed of Novak Djokovic for his first win over the Serb for three years on Saturday and victory saw him level Djokovic's record of 30 Masters Series titles.
MADRID (AP) - Novak Djokovic remains optimistic despite yet another disappointing result in what has been a frustrating season.
The 12-time men's singles Grand Slam champion has gone off the boil since his win at the French Open a year ago and admitted that he struggled to find motivation for the first time in his career.
"It was a positive week, a positive experience". Fortunately I managed to come back and break... But in December or January, I was not expecting to play badly, because I knew I was doing a very good off-season. If I am No5 and I play well, I will have the same chances as if I'm No4 or No5.
There's nothing magical about the box Djokovic finds himself in, but Nadal is more than happy to have found his time machine.
This win breaks Nadal's seven match losing streak against Djokovic and props him as the clear favourite to lift the trophy at Roland Garros.
I think it was a good fight out there. It's logical that after a hard week, I've been playing a lot of matches, a lot of hours out there on the court, I feel like it's (knee) sore, a little bit exhausted.
Nadal also won in Monte Carlo last month. I felt that the start of the season went really well for me this year, winning in Doha.
However, that run was emphatically ended as Nadal, willed on by a fervent home support including Cristiano Ronaldo in the VIP boxes, made the ideal start by breaking the Djokovic serve to love.
"Defending champion Djokovic reached the last four without hitting a ball as his quarter-final opponent Kei Nishikori withdrew due to a wrist injury".
Rafael Nadal is near his best again, and he showed it with an emphatic win over a rival he hadn't beaten in three years. It was Nadal's second victory over Thiem in as many events.
While a critic would undoubtedly slate me for that, much of the theory has proved correct with numerous new faces (and big prices) featuring in the latter stages of the Masters events.
"I thought Nole [Novak Djokovic] would beat Rafa [Rafael Nadal]", Fognini revealed ahead of this week's Rome Masters. He won his first career title in Marrakech, Morocco last month. He did get the better of me in most of the stats, most of the shots. He lost to Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals in Acapulco and in the Round of 16 in Indian Wells.
If there is any player who can stop Nadal on clay court this season, it is Federer.
"Let's respect his level right now because it's true that perhaps it's not as high as he used to be, but I can also tell you it's (been) a lot of years".
This was first tournament since splitting with longtime coach Marian Vajda.