Nadal Saves M.P., Makes It A Dozen In Barcelona
The top seed was one point from defeat at 4-5, 30/40 in the decider and he carried the momentum from that moment to win three straight games and overcome the Monte-Carlo champion after three hours and 38 minutes. The championship match was the longest best-of-three-set ATP Tour final since statistics started being tracked in 1991.
This is the second tournament where Nadal has captured 12 or more titles. The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who failed to convert two championship points at 5-4 in the second set, will return to No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.
"I think I never played a final like this in this tournament, so it means a lot to me against a player like him, [after what] he achieved in Monte-Carlo and [that he reached] 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."
Rafael Nadal - Most Titles By Tournament
|T5||Madrid||5 (4 Clay, 1 Hard)|
For the first time, Nadal has lifted the Barcelona title after dropping more than one set (3). The 34-year-old, who also needed three sets in his opening two matches, raised his game as the tournament progressed and fought hard to get past Tsitsipas, who entered his second Barcelona final (0-2) with a 9-0 match record (17-0 sets) on clay in 2021.
"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."
The five-time year-end World No. 1 gained revenge for his loss to the Greek in the Australian Open quarter-finals this February. On that occasion, Tsitsipas joined Fabio Fognini and Roger Federer as only the third man to beat Nadal from two sets down.
Nadal extends his ATP Head2Head advantage against Tsitsipas to 7-2. The 20-time Grand Slam champion also beat Tsitsipas in the 2018 final in Barcelona, where Tsitsipas made his debut in an ATP Tour championship match. This was only the third final meeting between Top 5 players in tournament history.
Top 5 Barcelona Final Meetings
|1973||Ilie Nastase (No. 1)||Manuel Orantes (No. 3)|
|2008||Rafael Nadal (No. 2)||David Ferrer (No. 5)|
|2021||Rafael Nadal (No. 3)||Stefanos Tsitsipas (No. 5)|
Nadal also improved his unbeaten record to 12-0 in Barcelona finals. The Mallorcan now owns an Open Era record 61 tour-level trophies on clay, placing him 12 titles clear of second-placed Guillermo Vilas (49).
"For me, the simple fact of being able to play in Barcelona after last year's tournament wasn't held means a lot to me," Nadal told the crowd during the trophy ceremony. "After almost a year of not being able to experience playing in front of a crowd, these are incredible feelings. I really appreciate the love and support you all have shown me throughout my career. Playing in my club and in front of fans means a lot."
Nadal found himself under consistent pressure on serve in the first set with Tsitsipas stepping inside the baseline to take short balls early and force his opponent into defensive positions. The top seed was able to find big serves and powerful forehands under pressure to save five of the six break points he faced and he won four consecutive games from 2-4 to become the first player to take a set off Tsitsipas this year on clay.
Nadal once again recovered from a break down in the second set and earned two championship points on Tsitsipas’ serve at 5-4. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion charged the net to stay alive and rallied from 2/4 in the tie-break to force a decider. Tsitsipas defended well in the tie-break, introduced drop shots to break up play and benefitted from a Nadal double fault at 6/6 to prolong his hopes of a maiden Barcelona trophy.
In a tight third set, Nadal was forced to save the first break point — a championship point — at 4-5. The Spaniard clipped the net with a defensive backhand early in the rally and he drove a forehand up the line to remain in contention. Nadal piled the pressure on his opponent in the next game and extracted back-to-back errors with depth on his returns. Nadal clinched the title on his third championship point when Tsitsipas narrowly missed the target on his forehand. Nadal fell to the clay and roared in celebration.
Tsitsipas, who leads the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, was aiming to lift his maiden ATP 500 trophy. The 22-year-old claimed his first ATP Masters 1000 title last week at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and tied Andrey Rublev’s Tour-leading mark of 26 wins this season by reaching the Barcelona championship match.