EPIC: Rafael Nadal Saves Match Point to Clinch his 12th Barcelona Open Title After Battling Past Stefanos Tsitsipas

Published 04/25/2021, 2:04 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP 500 – Barcelona Open – Real Club de Tennis Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain – April 24, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his semi final match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta REUTERS/Albert Gea


Rafael Nadal underlined his supremacy on his home turf yet again as he snapped Stefanos Tsitsipas’s rampant run on clay to lift a record 12th Barcelona Open title on Sunday.

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Nadal went into the title clash holding a clear 6-2 lead over the current World No. 5. However, with the Greek on an unbeaten run from the Principality and yet to drop a set across the two tournaments, it wasn’t tipped to be a rerun of the 2018 rout.

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As is his want these days, Nadal took serve and opened proceedings with a resounding hold to go 1-0 up in the first set. He pulled out a big forehand to go 40-0 clear before closing the game with his first ace.

With about a thousand spectators packing the arena on a perfect Sunday afternoon, the Spaniard had enough in the way of support in the stands at the Pista Rafa Nadal.

Gritty fightback from break down sees Rafael Nadal take the first set against Stefanos Tsitsipas

Seeking to put early pressure on the Tsitsipas serve, the Spaniard took two points off his handle to make it 30-30. At 40-30, Nadal let loose a delectable drop shot that the Greek couldn’t reach.

At deuce, the Greek held his nerve and won two straight points to make it 1-1 in the opening set.

The tables turned in the next game as Tsitsipas went 0-30 up on the Nadal serve. The World No. 3 caught the net cord with a backhand, giving the Greek three breakpoints.

Tennis – ATP 500 – Barcelona Open – Real Club de Tennis Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain – April 25, 2021 Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in action during the final against Spain’s Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Albert Gea

He pulled another regulation shot wide to go 1-2 in the opening set. If there were any butterflies in the Greek’s tummy, they would have settled down after this game.

Brimming with his confidence, Tsitsipas sent down a screamer of a forehand down-the-line to go 30-0 in his next service game. He closed it soon after to extend his lead over the top-seed to 3-1.

Another sumptuous backhand cross-court put him at 0-15 on the Nadal serve in the next game. An unforced error from the Spaniard put the Greek in sight of another breakpoint.

A double fault put the score at deuce and Nadal followed with another unforced error to concede another breakpoint. The Greek came out on the right side of another rally to bring up his third breakpoint.

Another double fault on game point brought it back to deuce. However, Nadal managed to eventually come away with a gutsy hold to reduce his deficit to 2-3.

Another emphatic hold saw Tsitsipas pull 4-2 clear in the opening set. After being tested on serve, Nadal managed to come through to reduce his arrears to 3-4 in the opening set.

A regulation volley from Tsitsipas found the net, giving Nadal two breakpoints in the next game. A sumptuous forehand winner saw the Spaniard breaking back and restoring parity in the set. It was only the second time in the tournament that the Greek had been broken. Alex Di Minaur did it earlier in the pre-quarters.

After another game where he was stretched, Nadal managed to hold to come within another break of securing the opening set.

Serving to stay in the opening set after being in sight of a double break, Tsitsipas trailed 0-30 on serve. A volley of fierce groundstrokes pushed Tsitsipas further back and sent up a lop only for the Spaniard to put away.

Cashing in on his third breakpoint, the 13-time French Open closed out the opening set 6-4.

Stefanos Tsitsipas survives two championship points to take final to a decider

A quickfire hold saw Nadal take a 1-0 lead in the second set. Tsitsipas responded with a calm service game to level it at 1-1.

Nadal put a regulation backhand wide in the next game, conceding two breakpoints. Tsitsipas seized on his chance to get an early break again and go 2-1 up in the second set.

An outrageous return of an overhead smash put Nadal at 0-15 on Tsitsipas’s serve. However, the World No. 5 recovered to pull 3-1 clear in the second set. A brilliant drop shot saw Tsitsipas make it 30-30 on the Nadal serve. However, with two straight points, the Spaniard held on to reduce his deficit to 2-3.

Giving in to pressure that was brought to bear on him by the Spaniard, the Greek conceded another break of serve to lose his lead in the second set. Another assured service h0ld saw Nadal go into a 4-3 lead. Under pressure, the Greek produced a near-flawless service game to go level at 4-4.

Finding another gear, the Spaniard whipped winners past the Greek to go within touching distance of his 12th crown in Catalunya.

Serving to stay in the tournament, Tsitsipas went 0-15 down as Nadal unleashed another blazing winner leaving the Greek trailing in the cold. Sensing his chance to go for the kill, the Spaniard forced an error out of the Greek to have two championship points. A regulation miss gave the Greek a game point. and he seized on it to pull level at 5-5.

Two straight winners put him at 0-30 in the next game. Facing three breakpoints, Nadal yet again showed exemplary grit to come away with a critical hold.

Tsitsipas played out another emphatic hold to take the second set to a tie-break. With Nadal up 3-2 in the tie-break, Tsitsipas put a forehand long to concede a mini-break to the Spaniard.

At 4-3 on serve, Nadal conceded a point to the Greek to see the score go level. Another point put Tsitsipas on a mini-break and in sight of a set point. On set points, Tsitsipas conceded two points, handing the advantage yet again to the Spaniard.

All ill-timed double fault gifted the Greek another set point. Cashing in on the Spaniard’s largesse and saving two championship points, Tsitsipas took the final to a decider.

A regulation forehand from Tsitsipas caught the net and landed out of line to take the opening game of the third set to deuce. However, the Greek recovered to come away with a hold to take a 1-0 lead in the decider.

Nadal blitzed to a hold to make it 1-1. The Greek hit back with another impeccable service game to go 2-1 up. A brilliant pass to an overhead smash saw Tsitsipas go 15-15 on the Nadal’s serve. However, after a bit of struggle the Spaniard managed to hold.

Nadal fired another forehand winner to go level at 30-30 on Tsitsipas’s serve. A deft touch at the net took Nadal to deuce but the Greek profited from a couple of points to go 3-2 up.

The Spaniard produced another clinical service game to go level at 3-3. The Greek hit back with a hold to love to open out a 4-3 lead. Another clinical hold saw Nadal draw level at 4-4. Tsitsipas played out another confident service game to 5-4 in the clear.

Rafael Nadal shows signature steel after mid-match slump to clinch 12th title

Serving to stay in the championship, Nadal missed a regulation put-away to fall back to 15-15 in the next game.

Another regulation shot from Nadal went awry, giving Tsitsipas his first championship point. However, the net cord this time came to the Spaniard’s rescue as he went to deuce. Yet again under severe strain, the Spaniard demonstrated signature doggedness to hold serve and take the set to 5-5.

Nadal was up 15-30 in the next game and a brilliant drop shot saw him open up two breakpoints. The Spaniard got himself a third breakpoint in the game with another clean winner.

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However, Tsitsipas pulled it back to deuce. However, the Greek pulled another shot wide to concede another breakpoint and Nadal cashed in to secure a decisive. Serving for the championship, Nadal sent down a double fault to make it 30-30. The Spaniard missed a straightforward volley to concede a breakpoint.

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Showing incredible strength oh character, Rafael Nadal got himself a third championship point and made good this time to win his 12th title on his home turf. The eventual score line read 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 7-5 in the Spaniard’s favor.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

863 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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