Reenergized from a Monte Carlo title – his biggest in almost two years – Rafael Nadal returns to his home country Wednesday seeking a ninth title in Barcelona.
Nadal opens play against countryman Marcel Granollers who he leads 3-0 in their series. And he comes off a ninth Monte Carlo title Sunday after consecutive wins over Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray and then in the final Gael Monfils.
“I am very happy about the tournament in Monte Carlo,” said Nadal. “It’s one of the most important ones of the season. Yesterday was a great day. I played at a very high level during the entire week. But now I have to continue like this in the next tournaments.
“Athletes live for their victories. We have to fight hard to do well and achieve victories.
“The objective in 2016 is to be happy. I have to keep playing, but be happy above all. I am looking forward to the tournament.”
Nadal’s opposition includes Kei Nishikori who is going for a third straight Barcelona title.
“I want to win the tournament again,” said Nishikori, who faces either Thiemo de Bakker or wild card Elias Ymer in the second round. “This is my favourite tournament. The toughest 500 event, especially on clay, with all the Spanish players and Rafa in good shape. It will be a tough competition.
“I think Rafa is in great shape and he is playing great tennis again. It is going to be a tough match if Rafa and I play the final, but it will be a great week.”
Nishikori will face Thiemo de Bakker also on Wednesday.
One seed is already out. No. 5 Roberto Bautista Agut fell to little-known youngster Karen Khachanov. Benoit Paire, Jeremy Chardy and Alexander Dolgopolov advanced into the third round. Chardy would meet Nishikori on Thursday.
WEDNESDAY BARCELONA SCHEDULE
PISTA CENTRAL start 11:00 am
 T. Bellucci (BRA) vs A. Zverev (GER)
Not Before 1:30 pm
T. de Bakker (NED) vs  K. Nishikori (JPN)
 R. Nadal (ESP) vs M. Granollers (ESP)
I. Dodig (CRO) vs  F. Lopez (ESP)
A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) vs  P. Cuevas (URU)
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