Rafael Nadal might still be a match or two away from his top level on clay, but the 11-time Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell champion still has what it takes to continue his mastery against friend and countryman David Ferrer.
The top-seeded Nadal ended Ferrer’s time in Barcelona 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the ATP 500 event for the 13th time. Nadal admitted he didn’t compete well during his opening three-set win against Argentine Leonardo Mayer that saw his 30-set Barcelona win streak end.
But Nadal upped his level during his 32nd – and perhaps final – FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup against the 37-year-old Ferrer. The World No. 2 pushed Ferrer feet behind the baseline before delivering drop shots that even Ferrer couldn’t track down.
“Big difference. It was a tough match in all ways yesterday. Today was a different energy, a different motivation. In general terms, for me, I needed to play with a different attitude to make a step forward, and that’s what I did today,” Nadal said.
The Spaniard broke in the sixth game when Ferrer missed an aggressive backhand wide, and, after a brief rain delay, clinched the set on his racquet. Nadal started quickly in the second, breaking in Ferrer’s opening two service games.
Nadal, a 57-time clay-court champion, now leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 26-6, including 20-2 on clay and 6-0 in Barcelona. Ferrer will play his final tournament in two weeks at the Mutua Madrid Open. The former World No. 3 was moved to tears while receiving a standing ovation and, as has become customary during his farewell tour, leaving his bandana on the T in the service box.
“He deserves much more. It has been an emotional day. Happy of course for the victory but very sad to say goodbye to one good friend and one friend [with whom] we shared all of these things… during our careers. It was a tough moment, but I really hope that he’s very happy with this decision, and he’s able to do whatever he wants,” Nadal said.
Nadal will next face German Jan-Lennard Struff, who bludgeoned 31 winners, including 18 from his forehand, to knock out defending finalist (l. to Nadal) and World No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Struff beat No. 3 Alexander Zverev to make the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open and made the semi-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland. He and Nadal have never played.
Did You Know?
Nadal improved to 60-3 in Barcelona. He has now won 60 or more matches at four tournaments, including Roland Garros, 86-2; Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, 71-5; and the Australian Open, 61-13.