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Presentation Barcelona (ATP 500): In Catalonia, will Nadal take his revenge?

BARCELONA OPEN SABADELL BENCH

Category : ATP 500
Country : Spain
Dates: April 22-28
Surface : Clay
Staffing: €2,609,135
Title holder : Rafael Nadal

If any tournament epitomizes the history of Spanish tennis on clay, this is it. Since 1953, the event has been held on the site of the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona founded in 1899, the oldest tennis club in Spain. This is the 67th edition of the competition also called “Conde de Godó Trophy” in honor of the Count of Godo, Carlos Godó Valls, its founder. Now ATP 500, the tournament therefore survived the turning point in the professionalization of the game and the advent of the Open era in the late 1960s.

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The greatest champions in the history of the game on clay – Ilie Nastase, Björn Borg, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl or Thomas Muster – have triumphed in Catalonia. The Spaniards, in particular, have had a lot of success there: from Manolo Santana, the oldest winner at 32, to Rafael Nadal who could supplant his glorious elder for a few months this year. Eleven times champion, as in Monte-Carlo and Roland-Garros, the Majorcan is triple title holder in Barcelona. The organizers also named their 8,000-seat central court in his name in 2017 even before his “Decima”. The tradition finally wants the winner to perform a dip in the pool, an exercise that has become a real habit for Rafael Nadal.

Center court in Barcelona in 2018

Credit: Getty Images

The forces present

In Catalonia, the plateau will be prestigious. After his surprise semi-final defeat in Monte-Carlo, Rafael Nadal will certainly be keen to show that he is still the man to beat on clay. In search of a fourth crown in a row in Barcelona, ​​the world number 2 will be accompanied by four other members of the top 10: Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Stefanos Tsitsipas and… Alexander Zverev who obtained a last minute invitation. Defeated in the round of 16 on the Rock, the German hopes to put an end to his bad run and regain a good dose of confidence.

Finalist last year against the “Taurus of Manacor”, Stefanos Tsitsipas will be there. Now 12th player in the world, his best career ranking after his first Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo, Fabio Fognini should also play in Spain, unless his energy-intensive week in the Principality dissuades him. The young and talented Russians Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov will also be there. If the first hopes to confirm his current form, the second, who plays at home in the Catalan city, hopes above all to reassure himself after two consecutive defeats at the start of his last two tournaments. Canadian teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime will finally be ones to watch.

Stefanos Tsitsipas in Barcelona

Credit: Getty Images

Table

In Barcelona, ​​16 seeds are exempted from the 1st round. But this is not the case for Benoît Paire who will have a lot to do at the start against Juan Ignacio Londero, an ocher specialist. The Avignonnais intends to continue after his title in Marrakech and could find, in case of victory, Pablo Carreno Busta back from injury after more than two months without competition. A 100% Spanish duel of “veterans” will oppose Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, to then cross swords with Grigor Dimitrov.

Two other French people will start their campaign in the second round: Lucas Pouille against the winner of the match between David Ferrer and Mischa Zverev, and Gilles Simon against Taro Daniel or Mackenzie McDonald. If he returns to victory, he who has not won for three months and his semi-final in Melbourne, Pouille will have a good chance of finding Rafael Nadal in the round of 16. The latter will first have to dismiss Leonardo Mayer or Marius Copil for his entry into the running. Seeded number 16, Félix Auger-Aliassime will not have an easy task if Philipp Kohlschreiber, opposed to Malek Jaziri in the 1st round, faces him. Fabio Fognini and Denis Shapovalov could also face each other in the round of 16.

The theoretical shifts:

Rafael Nadal (Spain/N°1) – Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre/N°5)
Dominic Thiem (Aut/N°3) – Karen Khachanov (Rus/N°6)
Fabio Fognini (Ita/N°8) – Kei Nishikori (Jap/N°4)
Daniil Medvedev (Rus/N°7) – Alexander Zverev (Ger/N°2)

The three defining moments

1985: Tulasne on a cloud. Barcelona haven’t really succeeded at the French in 66 editions, with one exception. In 1985, Thierry Tulasne had an exceptional week in Catalonia, which he himself described as “greatest individual moment” of his career. A clay-court specialist and modest 48th player in the world, he won the third trophy of his season and the fourth of his career on his favorite surface. Winner of his compatriot Henri Leconte in the semi-finals, he achieves the feat of dominating Mats Wilander, three-time defending champion, world number 3 and champion at Roland-Garros, in five sets in the final (0-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0) After a disastrous start and a “bubble” cashed entry, he returned the favor to the Swede in the decisive round.It is to date the only tricolor success in Barcelona.

2000: Safin’s Symphony. At just 20 years old, Marat Safin is one of the promising young players on the circuit. In Barcelona, ​​the raw talent of the Russian explodes. From the top of his 93 meter and despite his 35th place in the world, he torments his opponents one after the other, all solid references on clay. He thus successively released the three Argentines Mariano Zabaleta, Mariano Puerta and Gaston Gaudio. Then, he defeated the Ecuadorian Nicolas Lapentti in the quarter-finals, before taking the upper hand over the Swede Magnus Norman in the half. He concludes his obstacle course by triumphing over the Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero (6-3, 6-3, 6-4) to afford the second title of his career. It was the start of a meteoric rise that would take him to world number one by the end of the year.

2014 : Nishikori puts an end to Spanish hegemony. In Barcelona, ​​the Iberians leave nothing to competition and have triumphed in 11 previous editions. Rafael Nadal, triple title holder already at the time (and eight times champion) has a lot to do with it. But to everyone’s surprise, the Majorcan world number 1 fell in the quarter-finals against his compatriot Nicolas Almagro. Seeded number 4 and 17th at ATP, Kei Nishikori took the opportunity to chart his course in the table, eliminating Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals, then Ernests Gulbic in the half, before winning easily against the Colombian Santiago Giraldo in final. He thus became the first Japanese to triumph on European clay and kept his trophy the following season.

Kei Nishikori at Barcelona in 2014

Credit: Getty Images

Three numbers to remember

18. Mats Wilander was 18 when he won his first title in Catalonia in 1982. The Swede remains to this day the youngest champion in the history of the event.

65. The American Todd Martin was 65th player in the world when he entered his name on the winners of the event. This is the most modest ranking of a winner in Barcelona.

13. This is the number of Spaniards crowned in the tournament, a record. They have won 14 of the last 16 titles there, including 11 for Rafael Nadal alone (his compatriots Fernado Verdasco in 2010, Tommy Robredo in 2004 and Carlos Moya in 2003 also won).

Player to watch: Daniil Medvedev

In Monte-Carlo, the Russian discovered new skills on clay. He took another important step in his career by defeating world number 1 Novak Djokovic for the first time in the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo, even if the latter did not play at his best level. In Catalonia, Daniil Medvedev is therefore expected at the turn. He benefited from a relatively lenient draw which placed him in the lower part of the table, far from Rafael Nadal in particular. If he manages to keep the level of play offered on the Rock side, he could well become a serious outsider for Roland-Garros. But be careful not to pull too much on the rope for the Russian who had notably complained of adductors during his feat against Djokovic.

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