Nadal sets up Tsitsipas title showdown in Barcelona

Spanish World No.2 Rafael Nadal made it to his 12th Barcelona Open final with a 6-3, 6-2 win against countryman Pablo Carreno Busta and set up a title clash with World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

The 11-time champion landed 13 forehand winners and claimed four service breaks to extend his unbeaten ATP head-to-head record against Carreno Busta to 8-0 on Saturday night.

Nadal, the winner of 20 Grand Slam titles, made quick starts to both sets and reached his 69th clay final after 89 minutes.

“I am very happy to be back in a final here at an historic event, a home event and an important one for me,” Nadal told the ATP Tour website. “I think I did things well today, better than the other days. I have been improving every single day a little bit more.”

Nadal is chasing his 12th title at the ATP 500 event. The 60-time clay-court titlist is the only player to lift 12 or more tour-level trophies at the same tournament, having claimed 13 titles at Roland Garros.

Nadal owns a combined 23-1 record in Barcelona semi-final and final matches. The Spaniard’s only loss in Barcelona after reaching the final-four came in 2019, when he fell to eventual champion Dominic Thiem.

The top seed will meet Stefanos Tsitsipas for the trophy in a repeat of the 2018 Barcelona final. On that occasion, Nadal defeated the first-time ATP Tour finalist 6-2, 6-1.

The 34-year-old will be seeking revenge for his loss to the Greek in this year’s Australian Open quarter-finals, when Tsitsipas became only the second player to defeat Nadal from two sets down at a Grand Slam. Nadal has a 6-2 ATP head-to-head advantage against the reigning Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion.

“Tomorrow will be a very tough one. Stefanos is playing probably better than ever,” said Nadal. “Not one set lost in Monte-Carlo and here, so it will be the toughest opponent possible. I hope to be ready. It is going to be a tough one, but I need to be ready to increase my level and let’s see.”

Nadal attacked Carreno Busta’s backhand and dictated rallies with his forehand to charge into a 5-1 lead in the first set. The 20-time Grand Slam champion dropped serve when he tried to serve out the set at 5-1 and was forced to save three break points on his second attempt as Carreno Busta raised his level.

After clinching the opener, Nadal made another impressive start to the second set, using his forehand to overpower his opponent. Nadal reached his 12th Barcelona final (11-0) when Carreno Busta struck a backhand return into the tramline.

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