After a week of world class clay court tennis, the ATP Barcelona Open is nearing its climax with the semifinal round. Saturday’s action sees two exciting semifinals taking center stage on Pista Rafa Nadal. We’ll see a mouthwatering clash between Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas, and an all-Spanish clash between Pablo Carreno Busta and Rafael Nadal. Here are my predictions for Saturday’s semifinals.
ATP Barcelona Open Semifinal Predictions
Jannik Sinner vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Head to Head: 1-1
Jannik Sinner produced a very impressive performance in his quarterfinal win over Andrey Rublev. One of the notable features of the match was the Italian’s dominance over the cross court backhand exchanges from the baseline, forcing Rublev to change tactics. Although a straight sets win for the Italian, it was anything but straightforward. Sinner saved a break point at the beginning of the first set. Even though the scoreline was 6-2, there were many long rallies from the back of the court, testing the Italian’s movement and defensive game. At the start of the second set, Rublev showcased his incredible defensive skills and stayed in the match. Sinner got the break, but was broken when serving for the match. Still, he showed his impressive mental fortitude, gaining a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak that was ultimately too much for the Russian to overcome.
Stefanos Tsitsipas had a more straightforward route into the semifinals, impressively dismantling Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets. The Greek is yet to drop a set this week and has had a tough draw, beating Juame Munar, Alex De Minaur and the Canadian. There have been noticeable improvements in the Greek’s return game, and he is brimming with confidence having just won his first Masters 1000 Title in Monte Carlo last week. Tsitsipas is playing the best tennis of his career at the moment and is a serious contender for Roland Garros.
The pair have met twice before, on the clay courts of the Foro Italico in 2019 and 2020. The Greek won their first encounter in straight sets and the Italian won last year in three sets. Both have improved and gained confidence since then, with the Italian winning his first two ATP Titles, and Tsitsipas having success at Masters 1000 level. This has the potential to be one of the best matches of the year and it is very hard to split the two. I think the Greek will get the win, purely because I think his serve is less likely to break down in the pressure moments. Predicting this match is basically a coin toss.
Prediction: Tsitsipas in 3
Pablo Carreno Busta vs Rafael Nadal
Head to Head: 7-0 Nadal
Rafael Nadal has failed to produce his best clay court tennis over the past fortnight. However, this week the Spaniard has improved in every match he has played. One of the big issues is the Nadal’s first serve, which has uncharacteristically let him down the past two weeks. Despite defeating Cameron Norrie in straight sets, the Brit was able to break the Spaniard in the second set. After his win, Nadal went straight to the practice courts to work on his game, and it is great to see the 11-time champion;s continued hunger and pursuit of excellence. Come the weekend, he will undoubtedly be an even more formidable force in his quest for a 12th Barcelona Open title.
Despite the head-to-head not looking reassuring, Pablo Carreno Busta has reasons to be fully confident in his game heading into this encounter with the king of clay. The Spaniard won the Andalucia Open earlier this month and put in a strong performance in Monte Carlo last week. He defeated Karen Khachanov to reach the third round, where he fell to eventual semifinalist Casper Ruud.
Carreno Busta showed his never say die attitude as he rallied back from 5-2 down in the third set in his last match, reeling off five games in a row to win it 7-5 against Diego Schwartzman, no mean feet when you consider the Argentine’s clay court prowess. There was an also a period in that match at the end of the first set and the beginning of the second where the Spaniard won 16 out of 17 points, summing up the different momentum changes throughout the match. The Spaniard does not possess a major weapon that will be able to consistently punch holes in Nadal. Much like Nadal’s previous opponent Cameron Norrie, his serve is an area which Nadal can exploit.
Despite Carreno Busta’s impressive clay court form this season, I think Nadal will continue his trend of playing better with each passing match, and I think he will record a straight sets victory.
Prediction: Nadal in 2
Main Photo from Getty.