(Reuters) – World number one Rafael Nadal made light work of Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas to win the Barcelona Open final 6-2 6-1 yesterday, lifting the trophy for a record-extending 11th time.
Tsitsipas, 19, is the second-youngest player in the ATP top 100. Like Nadal, he had reached the final without dropping a set, knocking out world number seven Dominic Thiem in the quarters and 11th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta in the semis to reach his first ATP final.
He had said that playing Nadal would be like “receiving a free tennis lesson” and although he held in the opening game, the gulf in class between the two players quickly shone through.
Nadal broke Tsitsipas to love in the third game and broke him again in the fifth.
Light rain had interrupted the match in the first and second games but the sun soon came out to shine over the packed Rafael Nadal Court as the home favourite put on a show.
Tsitsipas held his serve to make it 5-2 but Nadal comfortably served out for the set, shouting “Vamos” when his opponent hit beyond the baseline to end it in under 40 minutes.
Nadal showed no mercy in the second set and Tsitsipas’s inexperience showed when he missed a simple volley at the net in the opening game as the Spaniard grabbed the early break.
The Greek showed some of the fight which had led him to the final to hold in the fifth game and make it 4-1 but Nadal held and broke his opponent again to win the match after one hour and 18 minutes, clinching the title and a 401st win on clay when Tsitsipas found the net.
It is his 77th title, pulling him level with John McEnroe in fourth place on the professional era title list and he now only trails Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl.
UNIQUE MOMENTS A week after Nadal triumphed for an 11th time at the Monte Carlo Masters, which was his first ATP tournament since recovering from the leg injury that forced him to retire during his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic, he again proved to be an unbeatable force on clay.
“I have to enjoy moments like winning in Monte Carlo and Barcelona because they are unique sensations and I know I’m not going to always keep having them,” said Nadal, who has won 19 successive matches on clay and will be the overwhelming favourite to lift an 11th French Open crown in June.
“He (Tsitsipas) started well but I quickly started to understand his way of playing, I got an early break and it was uphill for him from then on.”
The teenager said he had hoped to play better than he did against Nadal and admitted that he was overwhelmed by the mere presence of the 16-times grand slam champion.
“I didn’t feel any pressure playing in the same final… but I felt different against him (Nadal). I didn’t see him as an opponent today, I saw him as something more and that is one of the reasons this (heavy defeat) happened,” Tsitsipas said.
“I probably saw him as a legend of the sport and I respected him too much and when you’re out on the court you need to avoid that happening.
“I had watched him a lot but in reality it’s not like (watching him) on television. He didn’t give me any air to breathe.”