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Ricky’s Preview and Picks for This Week’s ATP Tennis Events in Barcelona and Belgrade

Rafael Nadal

By Ricky Dimon

Following last week’s Monte-Carlo Masters, the high-paced clay-court swing continues in Barcelona and Belgrade. Rafael Nadal missed a chance at another title on his favorite surface when he lost to Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo, but he is back in action in Barcelona. The world No. 3 is joined in a strong field by Rublev, Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, Diego Schwartzman, and Roberto Bautista Agut. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic tries to kick his clay-court season into gear at a 250-point tournament that is back in Belgrade for the first time since 2012.

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell

Where: Barcelona, Spain
: 500
Top seed: Rafael Nadal
2019 champion: Dominic Thiem (not playing)

Nadal rarely loses in Monte-Carlo (73-6). He loses even less frequently in Barcelona (61-4). The 20-time major champion will try to make amends for last week’s surprising setback by capturing a 12th title in Barcelona, where the main court is named for him. Nadal last triumphed at this tournament in 2018, as he lost to Dominic Thiem in the 2019 semifinals before the 2020 edition was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nadal’s nearest seed standing in his way is clay-court specialist Cristian Garin, while David Goffin and Karen Khachanov are possible quarterfinal foes. Also in the top half of the bracket are Schwartzman, Pablo Carreno Busta, Fabio Fognini, and an in-form Dan Evans.

When looking at the other half, Nadal really has to like his draw. After all, Tsitsipas’ side is absolutely loaded. It is also home to Rublev, Bautista Agut, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti, and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are on a collision course for yet another head-to-head matchup in the third round, with the winner likely to meet Tsitsipas in the quarters. Rublev should coast into the last 16, where he could run into Bautista Agut for a rematch of their grueling encounter at the same stage in Monte-Carlo. The Spaniard, however, may first have to get past Sinner.

Quarterfinal picks: Rafael Nadal over David Goffin, Pablo Carreno Busta over Dan Evans, Roberto Bautista Agut over Andrey Rublev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas over Felix Auger-Aliassime

Semifinals: Nadal over Carreno Busta and Bautista Agut over Tsitsipas

Final: Nadal over Bautista Agut

Novak Djokovic

Serbia Open

Where: Belgrade, Serbia
: 250
Top seed: Novak Djokovic
2012 champion: Andreas Seppi (not playing)

Belgrade is hosting an ATP tournament for the first time in almost a decade, and Djokovic is not about to miss the occasion. A rare 250-point appearance by the top-ranked Serb is certainly bad news for the rest of the field—and especially for Aslan Karatsev, Miomir Kecmanovic, Laslo Djere, and other players in the top half of the draw. Djokovic could meet Kecmanovic in the quarterfinals and either Karatsev, Djere, Sebastian Korda, or Aljaz Bedene in the semis. Korda and Bedene are set for an intriguing first-round encounter.

The bottom half, of course, is far more up for grabs. Matteo Berrettini is a vulnerable No. 2 seed, and competitors such as Dusan Lajovic, Filip Krajinovic, John Millman, and Emil Ruusuvuori will be looking to take advantage. Other solid clay-courters to keep an eye on in this section are Federico Coria, Federico Delbonis, Marco Cecchinatio, Stefano Travaglia, and Pablo Cuevas.

Semifinal picks: Novak Djokovic over Laslo Djere and Filip Krajinovic over Federico Delbonis

Final: Djokovic over Krajinovic

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.