Rafael Nadal (right) and Dominic Thiem pose with their trophies at the end of the match in Madrid May 14, 2016.
After beating Djokovic in the semi-finals, Nadal could have been forgiven for expecting a somewhat easier contest against Thiem, who was playing in his first Masters 1000 final.
MADRID (AP) - Novak Djokovic remains optimistic despite yet another disappointing result in what has been a frustrating season.
But Halep, who is also into the semi-finals of the women's doubles with compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu, showed no signs of lacking in energy as she bounced back in emphatic fashion to win the last six games for the loss of just 14 points.
Still, the second-ranked Djokovic left Spain with reason to feel good about his game.
"It was a positive week, a positive experience". I didn't do any bad mistakes at my break chances. If I'm at my best and he's at his best on clay, he's probably the better player. I was expecting to play well.
Nadal's movement was back to his best on Manolo Santana and the fourth seed produced some resolute defensive play when required, while his forehand proved to be a deadly weapon once again. "To play here and win here means a lot to me".
I'll duck out on this occasion given my approach is largely to look for good value bets and the one to catch the eye this week is David Goffin at 33/1. "I hope to do the same in Rome".More news: Melissa McCarthy adds spice (and Spicer) as host of 'SNL'
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Rome will be Djokovic's last tournament before he defends his title at the French Open.
An open era record 50th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic served to highlight the Serb's dramatic dip in form since they last met in Rome nearly exactly a year ago.
"Physically I'm feeling fit".
Djokovic hasn't played in the semifinals of any event since winning the title in Doha at the beginning of the year.
The 59th-ranked Coric became the first lucky loser to reach the quarterfinals in Madrid.
No surprise, then, that during Madrid this year, Nadal had his old strut back. He has dropped only two of the 32 sets he has played on clay this year. After a run of seven straight defeats in their rivalry, dating back to the 2014 French Open final, this can only be described as a statement victory.
There were few other sniffs for either player on serve from there, but when the opportunity arose for Thiem in game nine he did not pass up the opportunity.
"I did try my best", Djokovic said. 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. He was broken three consecutive times in the first set, and once in the second to give Coric a 5-3 lead that the young Croatian converted to close out the match.