Barcelona Open Final Preview Rafa Nadal Versus Kei Nishikori

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The Barcelona Open final features Rafa Nadal (1) up against Kei Nishikori (2) who have won the last five titles in the Catalan Capital between them. The Tennis Review previews the match and predicts the winner.

The word on the tennis courts is that, after winning the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters and breaking down his rivals Andy Murray and Gael Monfils in deciding sets, Rafa Nadal is back.

Not everyone, however, agrees, arguing that while Monte Carlo was a return to ATP 1000 winning form, Nadal still has a few more comeback milestones to pass before being back to his Roland Garros winning best.

The Spaniard has a great chance of passing another one of those milestones with a win over Kei Nishikori in this year’s Barcelona Open final. The Spaniard has won the Monte-Carlo- Barcelona double seven times, and six times in his Roland Garros winning years, and if he can do the double again this Sunday, doubters might be a little more inclined to believe another Roland Garros might be on the cards.

Especially as the Spaniard would have to beat Nishikori on the way- the Japanese has won the title the last two years and is on a 14 match winning streak at the tournament.

Nishikori, though, has not met anyone of the quality of Nadal during that Barcelona run- the Japanese has never met anyone ranked higher than 16, Roberto Bautista Agut, during his reign.

Nadal is a tough match up for Nishikori. The 8 time Barcelona Champ leads the two time champ 8-1 in their head and head and won their last encounter in straight sets in the Indian Wells quarter-finals.

The Spaniard leads the series 2-0 on Clay, winning their first encounter on the red stuff in the Roland Garros fourth round in 2013 in straight sets, and taking the second one in 2014, in the Madrid final, when Nishikori had to retire 0-3 down in the third set after leading a set and a break with some stunning aggressive baseline tennis.

Watch highlights of Nadal’s win over Nishikori in the Madrid ’14 final below.

This match might be the highest quality encounter we have seen between the two since that Madrid final.

Neither player has dropped a set on their way to the championship match and both put in dominant semi-final performances with Nadal seeing off Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nishikori defeating Benoit Paire, who had beaten him the last two times they had met, and both feel comfortable on the Barcelona Clay.

Nishikori has been in good form recently- in his last event in Miami he reached the final where he lost to Novak Djokovic. That was over three weeks ago now, but the rest and recovery after what must have been a tough loss, might pay off in the final, especially considering Nadal’s recent run which has seen him win nine matches in less than two weeks.

That run for the Spaniard, however, does mean that Nadal is the match tougher of the two, coming into the tournament after an inspiring run to the Monte Carlo title. That run saw him pushed to three sets by Andy Murray and Gael Monfils, and in each match he proved by far the stronger in the third, and looked more like the Nadal of old, the Nadal who survived Nishikori’s fierce display in the Madrid final two seasons ago.

To see off Nadal in his current mood, Nishikori would have to produce his best play, which he has struggled to do in big matches versus the top players recently. If Nishikori comes out aggressive and misfiring, as he has been prone to do against the top players, Nadal will lap it up. If the Japanese comes out on the attack and his shots fall in, Nadal will weather the storm until Nishikori’s game or, as happens all too often, his body gives up on him.

For Nishikori to win, both body and game need to hold up over a possible three sets. If that happens, it will be some scene, the biggest win of the Japanese’s career so far.

If Nadal can see off that kind of Nishikori performance, that will be another scene, too, one we have seen many times before. A scene that would be another milestone reached on the road to getting back to where Nadal once was, sweeping all before him in the run up to Roland Garros.

A milestone to make the doubters think twice.

Prediction: Nadal has the momentum on clay right now, and Nishikori is likely to be swept away in its path.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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