Rafael Nadal matches Guillermo Vilas’ record

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Rafael Nadal survived a tough challenge from a two-time defending Barcelona Open champion Kei Nishikori in 2016. The Spaniard scored a 6-4, 7-5 victory in two hours and four minutes and clinched the ninth crown at one of his favorite events!

It was the 49th ATP title on clay for the great Spaniard, matching Guillermo Vilas’ record and looking good to pass the Argentine in the rest of the clay swing

. It was the second consecutive crown for Nadal after Monte Carlo and his last of the season.

Rafa claimed back-to-back titles for the first time since the summer of 2013 after struggling with injuries over the previous two years. It was a very tight encounter, with both players serving at similar percentages. Nadal delivered a bit better numbers to win seven points more than his rival.

Rafa had 21 winners and 18 unforced errors, while Kei played a decisive role in most of the points, finishing with a negative 29-34 ratio. They had a similar number of break chances, with Nadal fending off ten out of 13 and earning five breaks from 12 opportunities to cross the finish line first and secure his first Barcelona Open crown in three years.

Nothing separated them in the most extended exchanges. They split the shortest and mid-range ones, with Rafa having the upper hand in the quickest points up to four strokes and Kei dominating in those with five to eight shots.

The match was a positive sign for Nadal in terms of his mental strength, producing a performance of a true champion and taking the crucial points to seal the deal in straight sets. We can not say that he outplayed Nishikori.

Still, the Spaniard played better when it mattered the most, with the defending champion missing too many easy shots, especially in the pivotal moments. The result went back and forth, and Nadal had forged an early lead in both sets before Nishikori would bounce back to force tight conclusions.

Rafael Nadal claimed his ninth Barcelona Open title in 2016.

Just two points decided the first set, and Nadal escaped further struggle by saving seven out of eight break chances. On the other hand, Nishikori played against two break opportunities and could not defend any, which cost him dearly.

Rafa fended off two break opportunities at 1-1 in the opener and stole Kei’s serve in the next one to forge a 3-1 advantage. Nonetheless, he could not keep the lead for too long, like many times in the past two years. Nishikori immediately broke back and had an excellent opportunity to turn the scoreboard around after opening a 40-0 lead on the return in game seven.

Nadal made a strong response and took five straight points for a vital hold before making a crucial move in the tenth game when he broke his rival to grab the opener and momentum. Nishikori had many chances to create a more significant impact on return, reaching at least a deuce in four of Nadal’s games but scoring only one break.

Kei experienced more trouble behind the initial shot in set number two, playing against ten break opportunities and saving seven. The set started with three breaks of serve in the first four games, two for Nadal, who forged a 3-1 advantage.

In the longest game of the entire encounter, Rafa repelled two break chances and held after six deuces to stay unbroken. He established a commanding 4-1 lead and moved closer to the finish line. Instead of bringing the match home safely, Rafa let Kei get back into the set and level the score at 5-5 after taking four of the last five games.

Like in the opener, Nadal was stronger and more focused in the decisive moments, breaking Nishikori at 6-5 to wrap up the victory and celebrate another Barcelona crown.

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