MADRID — Novak Djokovic defeated Dominic Thiem 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) Saturday to reach the Madrid Open final for the third time.
Djokovic outplayed Thiem in both tiebreakers at the Magic Box center court, converting on his first match point to set up a final against either Rafael Nadal or Stefanos Tsitsipas, who play later Saturday.
It will be the second final of the season for the top-ranked Djokovic, who began the year by winning the Australian Open.
A victory on Sunday will give Djokovic his 33rd Masters 1000 title, tying Nadal for most all time.
Djokovic, who won in Madrid in 2011 and 2016, had played only four sets in the Spanish capital this week ahead of the semifinals. He didn’t play his quarterfinal match because Marin Cilic withdrew with food poisoning.
The fifth-seeded Thiem, who beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, had won two straight against Djokovic and was trying to make his third straight Madrid final following losses to Nadal in 2017 and Alexander Zverev in 2018. The Austrian was also attempting to become the first player to win three titles this season, adding to triumphs in Indian Wells and Barcelona.
“Dominic is one of the best tennis players in the world at this moment, especially on this surface, so this was a very big win for me,” Djokovic said. “I thought he was the favorite coming into this match because of his win in Barcelona and the way he played winning against Roger yesterday.”
Thiem got off to a good start by breaking Djokovic in the third game of the match, but the Serb quickly got back on serve and then cruised in the opening tiebreaker, dropping only two points.
Thiem converted one of his many break opportunities to go 4-2 ahead in the second set, but again Djokovic quickly recovered, breaking back in the following game. The two exchanged two more breaks late in the set, and Djokovic eventually prevailed in the deciding tiebreaker.
“I was still kind of trying to find my best game on clay,” Djokovic said. “These are exactly the matches that I need. I’m very, very pleased with this win.”
In the women’s final Saturday, two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep takes on Kiki Bertens, last year’s runner-up in the Spanish capital.