In the longest recorded ATP final, Rafael Nadal survived a valiant bid by Stefanos Tsitsipas beating the Greek 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-5 for a 12th Barcelona title.
“I think I never played a final like this in this tournament, so it means a lot to me against a player like him, he achieved in Monte-Carlo and the final here without losing a set,” Nadal said. “It is an important victory for me. I think I have been increasing my level during the whole week and this victory confirms it. That’s important for today.
“To have the trophy with me here at home means a lot, but at the same time for the future.”
The epic encounter went 3 hours, 38 minutes which is the longest 3-set ATP final since the they began recording time in 1991.
Nadal could have wrapped up it much earlier. Tsitsipas was in control early on in the match cruising with a break lead in the first 4-2 before Nadal ran off four straight games to steal the opener.
Tsitsipas again charged ahead with a break in the second, but Rafa came right back again. Nadal kept the pressure reaching two match points with Tsitsipas serving 4-5, 15-40. Tsitsipas surged back to hold and then, aided by a double fault from Rafa, took the breaker.
Serving ruled early in the third before the pressure built. Serving 4-5, Nadal faced a match point but was able to pull through. That missed chanced proved costly for Tsitsipas who was broken in the next game, then Nadal closed it out for his first title since the French Open.
“It’s about accepting the challenge,” Nadal said. “It is about being humble enough to accept that sometimes you are not playing that well and you need to fight for it and you need to try to find solutions every day. That’s what I did.”
Tsitsipas entered the match riding high on a 9-match win streak and having won 17 straight sets. He had also beaten Nadal on the clay and in Spain before. But Nadal won their 2018 final at the event.
“He’s a real competitor on the court. He hates to lose,” Tsitsipas said. “He hates to lose more than anyone else.
“I haven’t seen anyone fight like this. He makes my life really difficult on court,” he added. “I’m there to accept those terms and play based on his desire to fight. It also makes me a better player and I can see myself reaching my limits. It’s definitely something good to have for my personal development and growth.”
As a side note, Nadal’s 61st career clay title (87th overall) moves him back to the No. 2 ranking, ahead of Daniil Medvedev. As of now, he and Novak Djokovic would be on opposite sides of the French Open draw, though there is still a month of tennis to go.
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