Rafael Nadal showed no signs of stress or fatigue as he raced through his matches in Barcelona without dropping a set, continued his consecutive sets won streak on clay that dates back to last season. Nadal surrendered 5 games to Martin Klizan in the quarters, but was otherwise unbothered, defeating Roberto Carballes Baena, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Klizan, and David Goffin with two bagels and a breadstick thrown in prior to the final.
In that final he faced next-gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas, a rising Greek playing in his first ATP final. Tsitsipas has a great career ahead of him but he was overmatched by Rafa’s clay prowess, falling 6-2 6-1.
Tsitsipas, who has stepped up to a full time ATP schedule this year, won matches against Corentin Moutet, Diego Schwartzman, Albert Ramos, Dominic Thiem, and Pablo Carreno Busta without dropping a set, a great run to the final that saw at least three upsets in that period.
The doubles final was won by the Lopez brothers, as Marc and Feliciano beat Qureshi/Rojer, completing a Spanish sweep of Barcelona.
Marco Cecchinato had the joy of winning his first ATP title in the Budapest 250. The Italian, who had a poor record on clay at the tour level until this year, defeated John Millman 7-5 6-4 in the final. Millman, another clay struggler at tour level, also had the chance to win his first ATP title, but came up just short.
Cecchinato entered the draw as a lucky loser and went on to defeat Mirza Basic, Damir Dzumhur, J.L. Struff, and Andreas Seppi. The wins over Struff and Seppi coming in three sets. Millman reached the final with wins against Radu Albot, Lucas Pouille, Yannick Maden, and Aljaz Bedene, his final three wins all upsets, and the last two coming in tight third sets.
Inglot/Skugor won the doubles title over Middelkoop/Molteni.
Rafael Nadal Heads to Spain as Barcelona Open Top Seed Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Barcelona Open 500 is the ATP’s marquee clay event this week as Rafael Nadal leads the field, joined by Novak Djokovic and other stars of the game. Here is your full preview, with predictions.
Top seed Rafael Nadal will look to extend his winning streak on clay against Andreas Haider-Maurer or Roberto Carballes Baena, he should then get a Monte Carlo final rematch against Kei Nishikori. Nishikori needs to get past Yuichi Sugita or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to get there. At that third round stage he’s unlikely to prevail against Rafa.
Novak Djokovic won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo and looks focused enough to beat Martin Klizan or Federico Delbonis, then his countryman Dusan Lajovic, or a Spaniard, Pedro Martinez or Feliciano Lopez. I’ll take Djokovic over Lopez in the third round to setup a quarterfinal against Nadal.
David Goffin and Karen Khachanov should be on a collision course in the third section. Goffin needs to beat Mikhail Kukushkin or Marcel Granollers, while Khachanov will take on Leonardo Mayer or Mischa Zverev. Seemingly over his eye injury, Goffin is the favorite to reach the quarters.
Hyeon Chung begins his clay season against Bjorn Fratangelo or Alexey Vatutin, he should reach the third round and take on Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA has Tommy Robredo/Ivo Karlovic prior to Chung, I have RBA taking this section.
A semifinalist in Monte Carlo, Grigor Dimitrov should edge Gilles Simon (or Ilya Ivashka) before running into Andrey Rublev, or Houston finalist Tennys Sandgren/Malek Jaziri. Rublev isn’t an easy win for Dimitrov but he should reach the quarters.
Home hero Pablo Carreno Busta will be favored against Nicolas Jarry/Benoit Paire before most likely facing Pablo Cuevas in round 3. Cuevas must get past Ricardo Ojeda and Adrian Mannarino. Either clay court talent could win that match, but I’ll back PCB at home.
Dominic Thiem is playing well and should ease past Joao Sousa/Jaume Munar, then defeat home favorite Fernando Verdasco in round 3. Verdasco faces Guido Pella/Peter Gojowczyk first up.
Diego Schwartzman and Albert Ramos are co-favorites in the final section. Stefanos Tsitsipas would love to spoil the party though. A dark horse for the week, the Greek #1 opens with Corentin Moutet, with Schwartzman to follow. Ramos will take on Rogerio Dutra Silva or Jared Donaldson in round 2. I’ll back Schwartzman to win the section over Ramos.
Nadal d. Djokovic
Goffin d. Bautista Agut
Thiem d. Schwartzman
Dimitrov d. Carreno Busta
if anyone is going to beat Rafa on clay it would be Djokovic. I don’t think he’s reached that level post injury though and thus Nadal is the favorite. The other quarterfinals shouldn’t be close, but don’t sleep on Schwartzman or RBA at home.
Nadal d. Goffin
Thiem d. Dimitrov
Nadal and Thiem should face off in the final, with Nadal walking away a winner, the same outcome as 2017.
Rafael Nadal dispatched Kei Nishikori 6-4 7-5 to once again win the title in Barcelona. The Spanish #1 is in great form having returned to red clay, and he’s proving himself as a resilient star on the ATP tour. The top seed beat Marcel Granollers, Albert Montanes, Fabio Fognini, and Philipp Kohlschreiber, along with Nishikori without dropping a set this week, and he’s playing like a buzzsaw on the clay.
Nishikori reached his second straight final with wins over Thiemo De Bakker, Jeremy Chardy, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Benoit Paire, all without dropping a set. He’s been great in Barcelona, and has 19 wins compared to four losses on clay over the last two seasons.
The Bryan brothers beat Pablo Cuevas and Marcel Granollers for the doubles title, a big win for the veteran team.
Fernando Verdasco won his first ATP title in two years with a Monday victory in Bucharest over Lucas Pouille. Pouille was playing in his first career ATP final after defeating Dusan Lajovic, Ivo Karlovic, Paolo Lorenzi, and Federico Delbonis. He beat Lorenzi after dropping the first set.
Verdasco struggled for a win against Aldin Setkic, but found momentum to defeat Radu Albot, Robin Haase, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to reach the final. He’s back into the top 60, and could use more wins to get his game back to a Grand Slam level .
2016 ATP Barcelona Preview and Predictions Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The European spring clay court season continues with the first ATP World Tour stop in Spain. The Barcelona Open is a 500 level tournament, and a lot of intriguing talents are taking part.
Barcelona Open BancSabadell
ATP World Tour 500
April 18-24, 2016
Prize Money: €2,152,690
Top 8 seeds (top 16 seeds receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Rafael Nadal (5)
2: Kei Nishikori (6)
3: David Ferrer (8)
4: Richard Gasquet (10)
5: Roberto Bautista Agut (17)
6: Benoit Paire (22)
7: Feliciano Lopez (23)
8: Viktor Troicki (24)
Barcelona has nearly half of the ATP top 10, and a good variety of well known players, making this a solid 500 level stop. Most of the first rounders are not likely to be competitive, or interesting.
Recent Monte Carlo champion, and x8 Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal should breeze through his first few rounds. The seed in his section is Joao Sousa, who is average at best on clay. Rafa should open with Monte Carlo quarterfinalist Marcel Granollers, presuming Granollers can dispatch Daniel Munoz De La Nava. After that, it could be Sousa, or Casablanca semifinalist Albert Montanes, another fading Spanish veteran. Montanes opens with Roberto Carballes Baena, who is primarily a challenger player. I have Montanes slipping past Sousa, before falling to Nadal for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Fabio Fognini and Viktor Troicki are the seeds below Rafa, Fognini was poor in Monte Carlo after a few weeks off of the tour, but he’s still a talented, and accomplished clay courter. Fognini should dispatch either Rajeev Ram, or veteran Mikhail Youzhny in his first match. Both are poor on clay, and don’t have games suited for the surface. Viktor Troicki also suffered an opening round loss in Monte Carlo, but he’s had some success on clay, and that should continue against either Ernests Gulbis, or Marton Fuscovics in round 2. Gulbis is on a three match losing streak, while Fuscovics is playing his first ATP match of the season, after going 0-2 last year on the main tour. This section features many underachievers in recent months. I have Troicki defeating Fognini for a quarterfinal spot. They have a split 2-2 h2h.
David Ferrer has multiple finals in Barcelona, but has never won a title at this tournament. The Spaniard pulled out of Monte Carlo with an injury, but he should be fit enough to slip past either Santiago Giraldo, or qualifier Radek Stepanek in his opening match. Giraldo is slightly better on clay than Stepanek, but Ferrer outclasses both players. Andrey Kuznetsov lost his opening Monte Carlo contest, but he’s had a career year thus far, and should get past either Franko Skugor, or Inigo Cervantes to setup a meeting with Ferrer in round 3. Skugor, a doubles specialist, has qualified for three ATP singles main draws already this year. Kuznetsov upsetting Ferrer would not surprise me at all, given David has been in decline as of late, but I have to go with Ferrer to reach the quarterfinals. Kuznetsov upset Ferrer at Wimbledon.
Both Feliciano Lopez, and Philipp Kohlschreiber are capable of having a good run in their section. Lopez will face qualifier Pedro Cachin, or Ivan Dodig, while Kohlschreiber is likely to face Pablo Carreno Busta, unless Denis Istomin spoils that interesting matchup. The Casablanca quarterfinalist is a possible dark horse, but Kohli should be good enough on clay to advance. Cachin is playing his first ATP match of the season, and Lopez should face Kohlschreiber in round 3. He recently made the semifinals in Houston. Kohli and Lopez have split h2h meetings on clay, I have Kohlschreiber reaching the quarterfinals given the surface.
Kei Nishikori has won back to back Barcelona Open titles, and he’s in a section that should result in a good start to his quest for at third Barcelona title. After a 15-3 record on clay last year, Nishikori recently reached the final in Miami as well. Neither Thiemo De Bakker, or recent challenger champion Elias Ymer are capable of challenging him in round 2. Both Mikhail Kukushkin and Victor Estrella have been dire as of late, and that means power hitter Jeremy Chardy should advance to face Nishikori in round 3. Chardy is 2-0 against Nishikori on clay, but I have to pick Kei to reach the quarters.
Roberto Bautista Agut continued his good season with a pair of wins in Monte Carlo. RBA will face either Aljaz Bedene, or the rising Karen Khachanov, a qualifier, in round 2. After that, he should face the dangerous, but inconsistent, Alexandr Dolgopolov in round 3. Dolgo will face either Facundo Bagnis or Evgeny Donskoy in round 2. Bagnis, a solid clay courter, upsetting Dolgopolov would not surprise me. The Ukrainian is known to be shaky on the surface. RBA should prevail against either Dolgo or Bagnis to reach the quarters.
Richard Gasquet would like to have a strong showing, and given his section, he should be able to get some momentum going on clay. The #4 seed exited in his second match in Monte Carlo, but should find more success against Malek Jaziri, or Hyeon Chung. The young Korean recently reached the quarterfinals in Houston. Thomaz Bellucci, a loser of five straight, is the other seed in this section, but all eyes will be on the young gun Alexander Zverev. Zverev should defeat fellow German J.L. Struff, a strong qualifier, in round 1, and then force Bellucci to crumble once more for a third round spot. Zverev is a serious threat to Gasquet, but assuming the Frenchman is healthy, I have him in the quarterfinals.
Benoit Paire snapped a losing skid and won a pair of matches in Monte Carlo, where he also posed a threat to Andy Murray. His showing on the clay there was the first signs of life from the scattered Frenchman in weeks. With Nicolas Almagro, his likely round 2 opponent, struggling, Paire should reach round 3. Almagro opens with Teymuraz Gabashvili, who is in total freefall right now. Defending finalist Albert Ramos will face off with Spanish young gun Jaume Munar in round 1. Ramos has lost three straight, but he should defeat Munar, before falling to Pablo Cuevas, the best player in this section on clay. Cuevas 12-2 clay court record should move to at least 14-2 on the season when he reaches the quarterfinals.
Zverev has the skill, and the draw, to at least reach the third round, and if he upsets Gasquet, he could go as far as the semifinals. This young German prospect has come into his own on all surfaces, and he’s the player to watch at the Barcelona Open.
Nadal d. Troicki
Ferrer d. Kohlschreiber
Cuevas d. Gasquet
Nishikori d. Bautista Agut
Nadal and Ferrer have dominated their respective h2h records in the possible quarterfinal matchups. Cuevas should be slightly better than Gasquet, and Nishikori has a stronger skillset than RBA, that has lead to a 4-0 h2h.
Nadal d. Ferrer
Nishikori d. Cuevas
Nishikori likely proves too fast, and too skilled for Cuevas, Nadal has won three straight vs. Ferrer, and is simply a much better player than he is right now.
Nadal d. Nishikori
On a hard court, I’d be more tempted to pick Nisihkori, but after Rafa’s strong showing on clay in Monte Carlo, I have to think he’ll get back in the winners circle in Barcelona. This would be a great final, and would move Nadal to 3-0 on clay against Nishikori.