Rafael Nadal saved match point in a pulsating final against Stefanos Tsitsipas to win his 12th Barcelona Open title, almost falling to defeat in the arena that bears his name.
Nadal had only lost one set in his 11 previous finals in Catalonia, against David Ferrer in 2008. Such is his dominance of the event, the show court was renamed “Pista Rafael Nadal” in 2017. Tsitsipas had a chance to upstage his opponent with a match point at 5-4 in the final set, and seal back-to-back Tour titles after winning in Monte Carlo last week, but Nadal dug deep.
The Spaniard had two match points of his own in the second set, but a combination of some uncharacteristic misses and brilliant play from his opponent helped Tsitsipas turn the match around. It took Nadal three hours and 38 minutes to pull off a 6-4, 6-7 (6), 7-5 victory in three hours and 38 minutes.
Tsitsipas, who recovered from two sets down to beat the Spaniard at the Australian Open, made a brilliant start to the match, striking winners apparently at will, breaking Nadal’s serve and pushing for a second break.
But the Spaniard, as he has done so many times before, weathered the storm, began sewing doubt into his opponent’s mind by relentlessly targeting his backhand and turned the match around.
He won four games in a row from 2-4 to take the opening set, and then again came from a break down in the second set after Tsitsipas had regrouped well. That took him to the brink of victory but Tsitsipas showed his own mettle to stay in the contest, recovering from 15-40 at 4-5 with two fine points, including a lovely touch volley winner on the second.
In a topsy-turvy tie-break Nadal led 4-2, then saved two set points from 4-6 only to serve a double fault at 6-6 that helped Tsitsipas clinch it. The third was serve dominated until 4-5, when Nadal wobbled on his own delivery, but ultimately it was the Spaniard who proved just the tougher.