What really makes a classic tennis game?
Is it the constant to and fro of a slew of services and returns? Is it the continuous see-saw nature of tiebreaks? Is it the saved match points? Or is it simply a collection of mesmerizing displays of grit, skill, and stamina?
Barcelona Open 2021 finale had these all and amazingly so from both sides of the net. At 3 hours and 38 minutes, this was the longest ATP 3 setter game of all time, and consisted of 5 saved match points. However, at the end of it all, Nadal’s grit and skill ultimately prevailed over Tsitsipas’ display of raw talent and power.
Nadal won the three-setter 6-4,6-7,7-5 to ultimately clinch his 12th Barcelona Open and a record 61st title on clay.
The tale of Barcelona finale-
Rafa was coming into the finals after one of his most inconsistent runs on the clay.Couple it with the fact that Tsitsiaps was in the form of his life and almost everyone knew it wont be an easy game for the king of clay.
Nadal found himself under consistent pressure on serve in the first set with Tsitsipas stepping inside the baseline to take short balls early and force his opponent into defensive positions.
The top seed was able to find big serves and powerful forehands under pressure to save five of the six break points he faced and he won four consecutive games from 2-4 to become the first player to take a set off Tsitsipas this year on clay.
Nadal once again recovered from a break down in the second set and earned two championship points on Tsitsipas’ serve at 5-4. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion charged the net to stay alive and rallied from 2/4 in the tie-break to force a decider.
Tsitsipas defended well in the tie-break, introduced drop shots to break up play, and benefitted from a Nadal double fault at 6/6 to prolong his hopes of a maiden Barcelona trophy.
In a tight third set, Nadal was forced to save the first break point — a championship point — at 4-5. The Spaniard clipped the net with a defensive backhand early in the rally and he drove a forehand up the line to remain in contention. Nadal piled the pressure on his opponent in the next game and extracted back-to-back errors with depth on his returns and eventually winning the match and his 12th title in Barcelona.
A word from the champion-
“It’s about accepting the challenge,” Nadal said. “It is about being humble enough to accept that sometimes you are not playing that well and you need to fight for it and you need to try to find solutions every day. That’s what I did.”
“I think I never played a final like this in this tournament, so it means a lot to me against a player like him, [after what] he achieved in Monte-Carlo and the final here without losing a set,” Nadal said.
“To have the trophy with me here at home means a lot, but at the same time for the future.”