After a week of brilliant clay-court tennis, the top two seeds are set to battle it out for the ATP Barcelona Open title. This is a rematch of the 2018 final, when Rafael Nadal comprehensively beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-2 6-1, in the Greek’s first ATP 500 final. Tsitsipas will be aiming to win his first ATP 500 title, having won his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo last week, whilst the Spaniard is going for his 12th Barcelona Open title. But who will come out on top?
ATP Barcelona Open Final Prediction
Rafael Nadal vs Stefanos Tsitsipas
Head-to-head: Nadal 6-2 Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas was not at his best in his semifinal win over Jannik Sinner. However, the Greek was still able to win in straight sets, and Tsitsipas has reached the final without dropping a set all week. One of the areas that contributed to the Greek’s win was his impressive serving under pressure. At 0-30 down towards the end of the second set, it looked like Sinner had a chance to get back into the match, but Tsitsipas was able to produce three big serves in a row to hold.
Another reason for the Greek’s impressive recent clay-court form is that the slow surface gives him more time to prepare on his return of serve, which is typically one of the biggest weaknesses in his game. Tsitsipas is also full of confidence in his game, and despite trailing 2-6 in the head-to-head, the last match the Greek played against the Spaniard was his epic quarterfinal at the Australian Open, during which he came back from two sets to love down to secure a famous victory.
Nadal, meanwhile, has struggled so far this clay-court season, at least by his high standards. He lost in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo last week to Andrey Rublev and in his first two matches in Barcelona this week, he dropped a set to Ilya Ivashka and Kei Nishikori respectively. However, against Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta the Spaniard upped his level, barring a brief blip in the first set the semifinals against his compatriot, and Nadal is beginning to look like his usual dominant self.
The Spaniard’s level of tennis may well continue to gradually improve over the coming weeks, peaking in time for his quest for a 14th Roland Garros title. The main area of concern has been the Spaniard’s struggles on serve. It let him down badly in Monte Carlo where against Rublev he served seven double faults, one short of a career high. Nadal has been broken in every match he has played this week and this is clearly the main area he has to improve as he heads deeper into the clay court season.
This should be a entertaining match and far closer than the 2018 final. The Greek is a more experienced player than he was three years ago, having won two big titles at the ATP Finals in 2019 and earlier this month in Monte Carlo. He has demonstrated that he can perform at a high level even when under pressure in big matches and should not be underestimated here. That said, Nadal will have undoubtedly been hurt by his defeat in Monte Carlo and will be even more hungry to win the title this week as a result.
That was in evidence when after his quarterfinal win over Cameron Norrie he immediately headed for the practice court to work on his game. This match will likely be decided by how effectively the Greek can control his backhand against the spin and bounce Nadal can generate with his forehand. The increase in the height on the ball on clay means it will be more difficult for the Greek to execute his shots from that wing, particularly when he is trying to step in and dictate.
The Greek has beaten Nadal before on clay, but that win came in Madrid where the conditions are slightly quicker and the bounce lower. Tsitsipas has looked better and more confident on serve this week than Nadal and this looks like it will go to three sets. But Nadal should be the man dictating the rallies most of the time, with Tsitsipas in danger of being pinned deep behind the baseline. Expect the Spaniard to get the win after three tight sets.
Prediction: Nadal in 3
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