For the second consecutive week, Rafael Nadal made it to the finals of a clay court tournament. This time, it was the Sabadell Atlantico Open in Barcelona where his opponent was fellow countryman, David Ferrer.
Just a few days back, these two met in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo where Nadal had a somewhat intricate match after easily carrying the first set. In the second set after a two break lead, Ferrer failed to put it in the bag giving Rafa the straight sets victory. Consequently, Ferrer was looking to avenge his recent lost. Although David fared better at this outing, the bottom line was the same, with Nadal victorious at yet another clay court event 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
The first set was vintage Nadal. Rafael gave himself plenty of margin for safety when hitting while his counterpart in trying to press the issue caused a deluge of unforced errors to flow from his racket. Therefore, in 31 minutes, Nadal put away the first set. The second set on the other hand was a different story. As Ferrer’s forehand began to find the mark, this allowed him to take control of the rally. Early on, Ferrer jumped ahead with a break. On multiple occasions in the set, Ferrer had break point chances to widen the gap, but Nadal found a way to escape. After failing to pull away with at least four break chances on Nadal’s serve, Ferrer surrendered his own and squared the second set at 4 a piece. Usually, this would herald the point in the match where Nadal puts the last nails in his opponent’s coffin, but Ferrer remained steadfast. With Nadal on the service line, Ferrer hit a couple of gorgeous forehand winners which permitted him to break right back and lead 5-4. When his turn came, Ferrer held his serve and captured the set 6-4 to extend the match. This result was meaningful since it signalized the first time since the 2007 French Open that any competitor succeeded in topping Nadal in a set. Moreover, there was a sense that Ferrer with his scrappy play now had a genuine possibility at foiling Nadal’s unprecedented attempt at winning this tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Yet, these fears proved to be unfounded.
From the initiation of the decisive third set, Nadal reestablished command over the proceedings, leaping to 3-0 lead. From then on, Ferrer never regained solid footing. Nadal went on to increase his advantage and relinquished only one game in the set. In claiming his fourth Sabadell Atlantico Open, Nadal wrote himself into the history books. Rafa became the first player to win this title four years straight; prior to that, he was tied with Mats Wilander who had won it three years in a row from 1982-1984. Furthermore, Rafa improved his record on clay to 103-1 dating back to 2005, with his sole defeat at the hands of Roger Federer in Hamburg last year. Shifting gear, the duo of Mike and Bob Bryan celebrated their 30th birthday this week and commemorated the occasion with a men’s doubles title, marking the second time they have prevailed at this event. As the ATP tour moves on to Rome this upcoming week for another clay court production, the question becomes whether anyone can stop Rafa Nadal on clay. Thus far, the answer has been a resounding negative.