Rafael Nadal beat defending champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-5 to win the Barcelona Open for the ninth time on Sunday.
Last week Nadal won in Monte Carlo, his first ATP Masters 1000 victory since 2014. This week he went back-to-back with another title triumph in Barcelona as he equaled Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 career clay-court trophies.
In an engaging meeting between the two top-seeded players at the tournament, Nadal handled the pressure better, especially in the first set where he saved seven of Nishikori’s eight break-points while converting the only two chances he got.
The second set was a wild affair as Nishikori came from 0-40 down to break in the very first game only for Nadal to then take control with two breaks of his own and a consequent 4-1 lead.
Determined to win the event for a third consecutive time Nishikori fought-back admirably to level matters at 4-4. However, after both players won their next service games, Nadal then stormed home claiming eight of the last ten points.
Speaking after the match, Nadal seemed immensely proud of his ability to keep his emotions in check throughout a roller-coaster final.
“I was playing against the number six player in the world, and if you don’t play at your best you aren’t going to win,” Nadal said.
“I served well and that allowed me to play better. In the second set I missed several chances, and at the end it was very close, but I stayed mentally strong.”
Nadal currently sits with nine French Open titles to his name. Should he be able to maintain his current form he will be hard to beat at Roland Garros this year which starts on the 16th of May.