After a frantic week at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open final has been set and it promises to be an absolute corker.
Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev will lock horns on Sunday in the final singles match on Manolo Santana, with the winner becoming the first player outside the Big Four to lift the title since the tournament moved to clay in 2009.
On one side of the net is Zverev – the most consistent man in Masters 1000 events over the past year and the only player to reach five semi-finals in that time. The 20-year-old German already has two titles at this level, having beaten Djokovic in Rome and Federer in Montreal last season.
Madrid Open champions since 2009
For Thiem, this will be his second final in Madrid and a chance to showcase himself as the best clay-court specialist behind Nadal – who he already took out this week – while he can also claim his first Masters 1000 title.
It promises to be a match we will see on many big stages over future years and its incredibly close to call.
Here we take a look at the contest and predict a winner…
How have they reached this stage?
The two runs to the final could hardly have been more different, with Thiem really suffering in the early rounds.
He began the event by coming back from a set down against Federico Delbonis before narrowly hanging on against Borna Coric.
From there on, the Austrian has been immense, brushing Nadal and Kevin Anderson aside in straight sets.
Routes to the Madrid Open final
R2: 4-6 6-3 7-5 Delbonis
R3: 2-6 7-6 6-4 Coric
QF: 7-5 6-3 Nadal
SF: 6-4 6-2 Anderson
R2: 7-2 7-5 Donskoy
R3: 6-4 6-2 Mayer
QF: 6-4 7-5 Isner
SF: 6-4 6-1 Shapovalov
Zverev, meanwhile, has been quietly going about his business and is yet to drop a set.
Wins over Evgeny Donskoy and Leonardo Mayer wont raise many eyebrows but his professional approach to trickier ties against John Isner and Denis Shapovalov is to be applauded.
Whats their head-to-head like?
The pair have met on five previous occasions, with Thiem enjoying a 4-1 lead over his final opponent.
Impressively, the world No. 7 has beaten Zverev every time theyve met on the dirt, with the Germans only success coming on a hardcourt in Beijing.
That said, its been more than a year since the duo faced off against one another and Zverev has since bagged two Masters 1000 titles and risen to world No. 3.
Thiem 4-1 Zverev
H2H on clay
Thiem 3-0 Zverev
Rotterdam 2017 R32: Thiem 3-6 6-3 6-4 Zverev
What have they said?
Zverev: Its obviously a great final for kind of the future ahead. We played five times against each other when he was already top 10 and I was more in the developing stage still.
Obviously hes leading the head-to-head. But Im playing quite well. So is he. Hopefully it will be another entertaining one.
Thiem: Against Sascha, weve played five times already. Last time was over one year ago, though. In this year, he increased his level dramatically. He won two 1000s. He came into the top 10.
Anyway, if youre in finals of a 1000, its going to be a hard matchup.
This is an incredibly close one to call, with so many different narratives flying around.
Zverev, despite his youthful years, has more experience on this stage. This is his third final at this level and hes won two of them against two of the finest players ever to hold a racquet.
Thiem, meanwhile, has only competed in one against Nadal but he has seemingly firmly established himself as the best player on the dirt away from the King of Clay.
The surface at the Caja Magica really seems to suit his game and if he puts in another performance like the one against Nadal and Anderson he will take some stopping.
Prediction: Thiem in 3