Imperious Nadal outclasses Djokovic to reach Madrid final
Rafael Nadal ended his dismal run against Novak Djokovic by ruthlessly dethroning the defending champion to reach the final of the Madrid Open.
Nadal had lost seven consecutive matches - and 15 straight sets - against the 12-time grand slam champion, but the resurgent Spaniard made a huge statement by winning 6-2 6-4 on Manolo Santana in the 50th match between the two greats.
The 14-time major winner has been in a league of his own on clay this year and will match Djokovic's record of 30 ATP Masters 1000 titles if he beats Dominic Thiem or Pablo Cuevas in his homeland on Sunday.
Djokovic, playing his first tournament since parting company with his long-serving coaching staff, was unable to live with an in-form fourth seed who is his firing on all cylinders ahead of the French Open.
The man known as the 'King of Clay' won both the Monte-Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open for a 10th time before heading to Caja Magica and defeated the Serbian for the first time since the 2014 final at Roland Garros.
Nadal came out with the bit between his teeth, breaking to love in the first game of the match under blue skies and pumping his fist after breaking a startled Djokovic for a second time with a fierce forehand winner.
A vibrant Nadal held to love to lead 4-0 with another blistering forehand that the second seed had no chance of retrieving, but Djokovic finally got on the board by winning the next game.
Djokovic was simply unable to contend with the home favourite in a one-sided opening set, which the fired-up left-hander won in style with a deft drop shot.
Nadal maintained his momentum by winning the first two games of the second set, but Djokovic sprung into life and levelled at 2-2 when the Mallorca native netted a backhand after being given the runaround.
Normal service was resumed when Nadal unleashed a sublime forehand winner that had Djokovic shaking his head and forced the error to go a break up at 3-2.
Nadal ensured there was no way back for Djokovic, grasping his chance to serve out the match following defiance from the French Open champion to stand on the brink of a fifth title in Madrid.