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Tennis News • Rafa Nadal Scores 400th Clay-Court Win • Reaches Barcelona Final

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning his semi final match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia at the 66th Barcelona Open Trofeo Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 28 April 2018. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

 

 

Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitispas marched to milestones creating a Barcelona final of invincible vs. inspired.

 

Striking with vicious accuracy, Nadal rolled through 12 of the last 14 games in a 6-4, 6-0 dismissal of David Goffin to roar into the Barcelona final with his 400th career clay-court victory.

 

The 31-year-old Spaniard joined elite company—Guillermo Vilas (659-162), Manuel Orantes (502-150) and Thomas Muster (422-127)—as the fourth man to reach the 400-win clay-court club.

 

“I played my best match of the tournament so far, no doubt about that,” Nadal said afterward. “It was a great first set, in my opinion, both of us we play at a very high level and then in the second of course David had a tough week playing all the matches of three sets and after three-zero he probably felt a little bit more tired, no.

 

“In general terms, I’m very happy with the way I played.”

 

Knocking off records with the regularity he takes down opponents, Nadal scored his 18th consecutive clay-court victory extending his Open Era record to 44 straight sets won on his beloved dirt.

 

Nadal will play for a record-extending 11th Barcelona crown—and to retain his world No. 1 ranking—squaring off against 19-year-old rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas who’s bidding for his first ATP title.

 

Stefanos Tsisipas from Greece in action against Pablo Carreno from Spain during their semi final match at the 66th Barcelona Open Trofeo Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 28 April 2018. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

The red-hot Tsitsipas, who arrived in Barcelona with exactly one clay-court career win, carved up Pablo Carreno Busta, 7-5, 6-3, advancing to his first ATP final.

 

Tsitsipas is the first Greek man to reach an ATP final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos advanced to the Des Moines, Iowa final on February 4th, 1973, bowing to big-serving American Clark Graebner.

 

“Stefanos is a great player,” Nadal said. “Young and the young players always have something special and he’s playing with big confidence. He’s playing so well so it’s gonna be a tough match tomorrow. I need to play at the highest level possible and I think today has been positive. Let’s try to keep going tomorrow.”

 

Wielding a whiplash one-handed backhand, electric forehand and the skill to strike down the line, Tsitsipas has not surrended a set powering past seventh-seeded Diego Schwartzman, 10th-seeded Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, third-seeded Dominic Thiem and the fifth-seeded Carreno Busta.

 

“Very proud for myself and also I believe I make proud my country as well,” Tsitsipas said. “So it’s a big achievement for me.”

 

It was a big start for Goffin, who toppled Nadal in their last meeting at the Nitto ATP Finals in London last November.

 

Goffin won the electronic coin toss, elected to receive and broke in the opening game. Nadal squandered a 40-15 lead and dragged his typically rock-solid two-hander wide to gift the break.

 

Moving forward in the court, Goffin reeled off three straight points confirming the break from 15-30 down, for 2-0.

 

The challenge Goffin faced was reproducing that level of offensive aggression repeatedly. Playing mid-court balls to Nadal is like trying to play leap-frog with a charging bull—you’re bound to get trampled.

 

The top seed charged through eight straight points knifing flat backhands deep crosscourt to send the Belgian beyond the sideline chasing running forehands breaking back at love. Nadal nudged an angled backhand volley capping a love hold for 3-2.

 

Rallying from 15-30 down, Nadal knocked off successive winners holding for 4-3. Engaging corner-to-corner rallies spiked midway through the set with both men finding the lines at times.

 

The reigning Roland Garros champion soared for a spiked smash and stuck a forehand winner down the line rolling through a love hold for 5-4.

 

Exploiting three Goffin errors, Nadal broke to snatch the opening set when Goffin scattered an inside-out forehand wide. Nadal won six of 10 points played on the Belgian’s second serve in the 49-minute opener.

 

Bolting a jarring topspin forehand off the back edge of the baseline, Nadal broke at 30 for a 2-0 second-set lead.

 

The cumulative punishment of countering the Spaniard’s twisting topspin took a toll on the lightest man in the Top 20. Goffin gifted a second break with his first double fault.

 

A ruthless barrage of drives ended with Nadal pulling the string on a backhand drop shot for a third match point. When Goffin’s final forehand sailed wide, Nadal wrapped up an oppressive 81-minute victory to move within one win of his 11th Barcelona crown.

 

Bouncing around the court with the gangly grace of a young Guga Kuerten, Tsitsipas hit five aces and permitted just nine points on his first serve in scoring his fourth straight win over a seeded opponent.

 

Fun was a factor reaching his first final.

 

“I couldn’t enjoy it more. I went on the court and enjoyed every single moment, literally,” Tsitsipas said afterward. “And when I enjoy, results come at the end.”

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