Rafael Nadal won the Barcelona Open for the 12th time with an epic 6-4 6-7(6) 7-5 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The Spaniard was short of his best for portions of the match and looked in danger of being blown away, but his steely resolve helped him overcome the Greek.
After his surprise loss at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier in the month, victory in Catalunya was the world number three’s first tournament win of the season.
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Tsitsipas made a rapid start and broke Nadal in comfortable fashion. He threatened to secure a double break to move 4-1 ahead, but the Spaniard fended off two break points.
In what was his 69th final on clay, Nadal was forced to save break points in the ninth game after uncharacteristic mistakes on the forehand wing, but he dug in to hold and upped his level in the 10th to break and claim the set. It was the first set Tsitsipas has lost on the clay this term.
Tsitsipas shrugged off the setback of losing the first set to break at the start of the second, but Nadal hit back in the sixth game by stretching his rival who attempted to switch things up by serve-volleying.
Tsitsipas saved championship points in the 10th game, and he was able to force a deciding set when taking the second in a tiebreak - with Nadal handing his opponent a gift when double faulting.
Serve dominated in the third set, with a series of love holds, but Tsitsipas crafted a chance in the 10th game. Fine margins make the difference at elite level and on match point against him Nadal scrambled and a backhand clipped the net only to go over on his way to a hold.
After saving match point, Nadal shifted into overdrive in the 11th game. Tsitsipas fended off three break points, but Nadal refused to go away and he broke when the Greek threw a forehand into the tramlines.
Victory did not come easy in a match that lasted well over three and a half hours, as Nadal sent down a double fault and dumped a volley into the net to hand Tsitsipas a break point. He was able to fend it off with an excellent wide serve, and closed out his 61st clay-court title two points later.
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