Rafael Nadal, it is safe to say, has put his troubles on clay behind him.
The Spaniard won his second title of the year, and second in a row after the Masters Monte Carlo, defeating two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-5 in the final of the Barcelona Open BancSabadell in Spain where he didn’t lose a set all week.
Nadal took back the crown from Nishikori for his ninth career Barcelona title, also tying Guillermo Vilas for the most career claycourt titles with 49.
“There were a lot of chances for both of us but I think I have been solid,” Nadal said. “When you play against players with such a high level, the match is often decided by a few moments. So I feel happy that I handled all these important moments well mentally.”
In the first set Nadal broke for a 3-1 lead, then after Nishikori evened it, broke at 5-4 to claim the set. In the second Nadal ran to a 4-1 lead before Japan’s No. 1 evened it at 4-4, then the Spaniard secured the late break, claiming victory on his second match point.
Nadal and all the top ATP players next move on to the Madrid Masters, which the Spaniard last won in 2014-13. And after just one Top 40 win the first three months of the season, Nadal has won seven this month alone during his 10-match win streak.
“I’m very happy because besides this being one of the most important tournaments that I have won, this is another week that I am playing very well,” Nadal said. “These have been two fantastic weeks, weeks I have been striving for for a long time.”
The former No. 1 is also the only player to win nine titles at an event in the Open Era, and now he has done it at Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Roland Garros. Roger Federer has won eight titles during his career at Halle, as did Vilas at Buenos Aires.
“I have been working so hard to enjoy moments like this,” Nadal said. “The fact that I’m playing at home is always even more special.”
Nishikori, who had won 14 straight matches in Barcelona, fell to 11-7 in career finals and 1-9 against Nadal.
“It’s a great start to the clay court season. Even though I lost today I gained some confidence,” said Nishikori. “He’s playing another good level of tennis. But also I gave away too many opportunities. And if I could get a couple more points on those important points, maybe the game changes a little bit.
“He also gives me a lot of pressure. Every point, he gets every ball, so it’s not easy to win points against him.”
ATP Clay Titles Leaders (Open Era)
Guillermo Vilas 49
Rafael Nadal 49
Thomas Muster 40
Bjorn Borg 30
Manuel Orantes 30
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