Barcelona Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori, Preview, Head-to-Head and Prediction

Published 04/21/2021, 3:39 PM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters – Monte-Carlo Country Club, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France – April 16, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal in action during his quarter final match against Russia’s Andrey Rublev REUTERS/Eric Gaillard


The ATP Tour has now moved to the Barcelona Open 2021. The tournament features home favorite and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal. After battling a tough match in the second round, Nadal will face the test of Japanese ace Kei Nishikori in the third round.

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Barcelona Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori – Preview

It is hard to look past Nadal‘s recent struggles. Despite the change of surface to his favored clay court, Nadal is not playing his best tennis. His 2021 season was already troublesome as it started with a rather severe back injury. His Australian Open 2021 was hampered as he suffered a shock defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

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Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning a point during his French Open 2020 Final against Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

After that, Nadal was next seen at the Monte Carlo Masters 2021. In Monaco, Nadal initially looked good, but he lost his touch in his quarterfinal defeat to Andrey Rublev. Here in Barcelona, Nadal survived a scare against Ilya Ivashka in the second round.

Many believe Kei Nishikori still has his old tennis left in him. It is to be noted that Nishikori is a two-time champ in Barcelona. 2020 was filled with breaks for Nishikori as he was first injured and then diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.

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Kei Nishikori of Japan plays a backhand in his match. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It is in 2021 that Nishikori has come back to playing regularly. Like others, Nishikori just took a break between the Australian Open and Rotterdam Open. Nishikori’s performances have seen improvement. The ATP Cup and Australian Open saw a rusty Nishikori and from then on there has been a steady rise.

As tennis moved forward to the clay court, Nishikori came to Barcelona. In Barcelona, Nishikori has won back-to-back three-setters to book a clash against Nadal.

Head-to-Head: Nadal and Nishikori

The head-to-head record between Nadal and Nishikori is heavily towards the Spaniard. Rafa leads the head-to-head 11-2. Nishikori and Nadal will play against each other in Barcelona for the second time. The first time was 2016 final, where Nishikori was the two-time defending champion. Overall, Nadal has a 5-0 record on clay against Nishikori.

Barcelona Open 2021: Rafael Nadal vs Kei Nishikori, Prediction

Nishikori’s backhand has looked solid in Barcelona. It is not a strong stroke, but it is efficient and tough to break. That can’t be said about Nadal’s backhand. In Monte Carlo, Nadal’s backhand broke early as Rublev defeated him. Some part of the problem crept through in his second-round victory against Ilya Ivashka as well.

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Nadal had uncanny errors, especially from his backhand. But surely, Nadal will take time to reach his optimum levels on clay. Obviously, match by the match he will improve, and on clay, there cannot be another winner than Nadal. Nishikori has had a good run until now where his baseline hitting has been good, but still, Nadal should triumph given his expertise.

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Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.

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Bhavishya Mittal

958 articles

Bhavishya Mittal is a tennis author for EssentiallySports, who is currently pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Manipal University. A former sports editor for The Manipal Journal, Bhavishya has also worked for The New Indian Express. He has a keen eye for many sports but he is a particularly ardent follower of tennis, with a zest to create riveting articles on the ever-evolving sport.

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