© Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Frances Tiafoe leads a strong #NextGenATP contingent in Barcelona that includes Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nicola Kuhn.

Nadal Faces Familiar Foes In Tricky Barcelona Draw

Top seed Rafael Nadal targets 12th Barcelona crown

On Saturday, Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat to Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. There is no rest for the weary. The Spaniard is right back to work next week at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and is set to face a tricky path from the start.

If Nadal is to lift his 12th trophy in Barcelona, he will have earned it. He finds himself in a loaded half of the draw, with a potential path to the final that includes 15th seed Lucas Pouille, 2018 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2017 runner-up Dominic Thiem.

Nadal, who opens against either Marius Copil or Leonardo Mayer on the familiar clay-courts of the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, could face Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals and Thiem in the semis. He defeated the Greek in straight sets in last year's final, with the Austrian enduring the same fate in the 2017 championship.

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Former World No. 3 and longtime rival David Ferrer could square off with Nadal for one last time, with a third-round encounter in the cards. Ferrer, who is playing in the penultimate tournament of his professional career, reached the final four times (2008-09 & 2011-12), falling to his countryman on each occasion. He opens against Mischa Zverev, with Pouille looming in the second round.

Meanwhile, Thiem should not look too far ahead in the draw, with sixth seed Karen Khachanov, #NextGenATP star Frances Tiafoe and home hope Pablo Carreno Busta all residing in his quarter. The third seed will face either Yoshihito Nishioka or Hyeon Chung in his opener. Chung is competing in his first tournament in two months in his recovery from a back injury.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Alexander Zverev leads the charge with two former champions posing a threat. Fourth seed and 2014-15 winner Kei Nishikori opens against either Taylor Fritz or Reilly Opelka, with 2010 titlist Fernando Verdasco battling fellow Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez. They will meet for the 11th time in their 15-year FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry (tied 5-5).

Nishikori's quarter is loaded with #NextGenATP stars, with Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime joining wild card Nicola Kuhn. At the age of 18, Auger-Aliassime is seeded at an ATP Tour event for the first time.

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