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Nadal holds off Nishikori for ninth Barcelona crown

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Rafael Nadal has continued his impressive form as the Spaniard overcame Kei Nishikori 6-4 7-5 to claim his ninth Barcelona Open title and tie Guillermo Vilas’ record of 49 clay court titles. Nishikori was looking to defend his title and contributed to a high quality contest with spectacular shot-making throughout from both players, but it was the world number five who won the crucial points at the latter stages of both sets to seal a hard fought victory.

In the first set, both players efficiently held their opening service games but it was Nishikori who threatened to make the breakthrough, as the Japanese player forced early break points. However, Nadal managed to survive with some accurate serving and powerful forehands, and he quickly punished his opponent in the following game to break for a 3-1 lead when Nishikori fired a forehand wide. The Japanese player though immediately hit back to retrieve the break with some fierce hitting of his own and even held more break points to go further ahead. Once again, the Spaniard dug deep to hold off his opponent that time, and did well against more pressure to edge ahead 5-4. Nishikori found it difficult to maintain his aggressive intent without producing the unforced errors, and in the tenth game the Japanese player found himself on the brink of conceding his serve. A backhand error gifted Nadal a set point, and the Spaniard converted it in a rather fortunate fashion, as his backhand passing shot clipped the net to evade Nishikori and as a result, seal the first set.

As the second set unfolded, Nishikori responded well to the initial setback, as the Japanese player broke his opponent early on when Nadal produced a forehand error. However, the Spaniard’s incredible fighting spirit and solid play saw him quickly restore the break back, and he easily held serve for a 2-1 advantage. Nadal continued to build momentum as Nishikori’s errant play was ruthlessly punished, and the world number five capped off a dominant point with a straightforward volley to break his opponent once again for a 3-1 lead. The Spaniard though needed to work extremely hard to consolidate his advantage, surviving the threat from Nishikori with inspired tennis to preserve the lead. However, the Japanese player still refused to lie down and finally he seized on his chance, breaking Nadal with a delicate drop shot to eventually level the scoreline at 4-4 after saving more break points. The Spaniard did well to edge ahead 5-4 and held a match point in the following game, but Nishikori responded with another perfect drop shot, and his heavy hitting ensured the set would be level again. Nadal though continued to have an easier time holding serve, as Nishikori was forced to serve to stay in the match for a second time down 6-5. Again, the Japanese player was under siege as Nadal’s remarkable defensive capabilities extracted crucial points to set up further match points. This time, the Spaniard was not to be denied and he clinched the match when Nishikori netted his groundstroke, to gain his ninth Barcelona crown and also move level with Guillermo Vilas’ record for the most clay court tournaments won.


ATP Barcelona Open Kei Nishikori Rafael Nadal

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