Last year, Rafael Nadal made the painful decision to skip his home tournament, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. This season though, Nadal was determine not to disappoint his loyal hometown fans. Taking on compatriot David Ferrer for the second consecutive week in a final, Nadal fought off Ferrer 6-2, 6-4 to capture the championship and his 45th career title.
At the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters seven days ago, Ferrer forced Nadal to work hard to claim the title. Thus, nothing less was expected in this match.
Ferrer was the first to earn a break point when Nadal netted a forehand. However, by sending a return long, Ferrer wasted that opportunity. On the other hand, when Nadal obtained double break point on a Ferrer backhand miscue, he connected with a forehand up the line winner for a 2-1 lead.
After consolidating, Nadal broke Ferrer at love to widen his advantage to 4-1. Yet, Ferrer narrowed the gap to a single break by breaking right back.
Still following a bevy of errors by Ferrer, Nadal retook a double break lead for 5-2. Then, after dismissing double break point, Nadal bedded the set.
Subsequent to flubbing a forehand, Ferrer stared at double break point to open the second set. With astute serving, Ferrer arrived at deuce. But, by pushing a forehand wide, Ferrer handed Nadal another break opportunity. The latter converted by striking a forehand down the line winner.
After Nadal went ahead 2-0, Ferrer again faced break point in his service game. This time, Ferrer guarded serve. With a series of unforced errors from Nadal, Ferrer fabricated triple break point. By provoking a mistake from his rival, Ferrer stole the game and leveled the set at 2 all.
Soon though, by dumping a forehand into the net, Ferrer was down break point. With a courageous forehand volley winner, Ferrer was at deuce. Six deuces and two additional break points later, Ferrer finally held for 3-2.
Then, with a well angled forehand, Ferrer enticed a forehand error from Nadal for double break point. With a forehand crosscourt winner, Ferrer broke for 4-2.
Yet with Nadal, no lead is ever secure. As a result of three poorly played points, Ferrer dug himself a 0-40 trap. With three well thought out strokes, Ferrer got to deuce. However, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Nadal posted another break point. He capitalized by besting Ferrer in a volley exchange.
Ferrer again had chances with three break point in the next game, but Nadal would not relent and squared the set at 4 all.
Promptly, with Ferrer’s backhand finding the net, Nadal had double break point. When Ferrer’s forehand up the line landed long, Nadal pocketed the break for 5-4.
By thumping a forehand down the line winner, Nadal set up double championship point. As Ferrer’s forehand traveled wide, Nadal collected the title, effectively his sixth consecutive at this venue.
In 2008 and 2009, Ferrer was also second best to Nadal in Barcelona. Nevertheless, Ferrer felt that he had a fantastic week.
Yesterday, Nadal obtained his 500th career win by beating Ivan Dodig in the semifinals. Today, Nadal competed in his 60th career final and improved his clay court finals record to 31-2. The “king of clay” is now third behind Guillermo Vilas with 46 titles and Thomas Muster with 40.
Always at this time of year, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is: Who can halt Nadal? This week at the Serbia Open, Novak Djokovic puts his perfect season on the line at his first clay court tournament of 2011. Perhaps, at the end of this week we will find out whether Nadal has a legitimate clay court rival going into the French Open.