Rafael Nadal enjoyed another momentous weekend on the ATP Tour as he claimed a ninth Barcelona Open title at the expense of defending champion Kei Nishikori.
Seven days after winning the Monte Carlo Open for the ninth time the Spaniard replicated the feat in Barcelona and Nadal looked in ominous form ahead of the French Open with a 6-4 7-5 triumph.
Nishikori, the victor in the past two years in Barcelona, gave his all in Sunday’s final and played his part in some captivating rallies, but he was unable to build enough momentum to worry his illustrious rival.
A tight opening set was littered with stunning rallies as both players hit the ball with supreme confidence, the tramlines regularly peppered as the pair thrilled the watching crowd.
Nishikori looked to control the tempo in a lot of the play, but when it counted it was Nadal who found the crucial winners – his break in the 10th game handing him the set.
It did not seem to faze Nishikori, though, as he drew first blood in the second. But that only served to rile Nadal and he came charging back to lead 4-1 – his Japanese rival wayward with his groundstrokes at vital moments.
Nadal’s double break should have given enough breathing space but the action was far from over as Nishikori battled back to 4-4 with some pinpoint forehands.
Having allowed one match point slip by in the eighth game, Nadal had another two games later as a Nishikori smash flew long – much to the frustration of the defending champion.
Another Nishikori error left Nadal celebrating and moved the Spaniard level with Guillermo Vilas on 49 clay-court titles.