Rafael Nadal cruised into his 10th Barcelona Open final, easing out Horacio Zeballos 6-3 6-4 to book a title showdown with Dominic Thiem.
Success at the Monte-Carlo masters last week made Nadal the first man to win an ATP event 10 times, and he could match the feat in Catalonia as the King of Clay continued to impress.
Argentine Zeballos came with a clear gameplan to attack Nadal early in rallies and, though the tactic made for some thrilling winners, it played nicely into the third seed’s hands.
Nadal raced through the first set, breaking Zeballos to love and conceding only one point on his serve until a mammoth ninth game, in which the world number 84’s game suddenly fell nicely into place, forcing Nadal to save three break points before sealing the set.
A lucky effort off the frame helped Zeballos withstand a Nadal charge early in the second, but the Argentine set up two break points with a monumental backhand pass on the run off a smash from the Spaniard, who spoiled the fun by roaring back for another hold.
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There was an element of misfortune for Zeballos as Nadal secured the crucial break on the back of a lucky net cord, but the nine-time champion would not be denied and a jovial Zeballos was satisfied to take an on-court selfie home with him as a memento after being beaten.
Nadal and Thiem have met on three occasions previously, on clay each time, and the young Austrian can draw inspiration from his victory over the Spanish great in Buenos Aries last year, despite having lost their last meeting in Monte Carlo.