RAFAEL Nadal has added to his clay-court dominance by reaching yet another milestone on the surface.
Nadal defeated David Goffin 6-4, 6-0 for his 400th career win on clay, reaching the Barcelona Open final for the 11th time. The top-ranked Spaniard will face 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, the first Greek player to make it to an ATP Tour final in 45 years. He defeated fifth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 7-5, 6-3.
Nadal was broken early in the first set by the 10th-ranked Goffin but quickly took control of the match to earn his 18th straight victory on clay. “I’m very happy. I played I think my best match of the tournament so far, no doubt about that,” Nadal said. “I have been playing well. I played a very solid match. That’s so important for me. I feel strong.” He has won 44 consecutive sets on clay, extending his own record. Nadal is fourth in the list of all-time winners on the surface in the Open era. Guillermo Vilas of Argentina is at the top with 659 wins, ahead of Manuel Orantes of Spain (502) and Thomas Muster of Austria (422).
With a record of 400-35, Nadal has the best ever winning percentage on clay. He has won a record 54 titles on the dirt.
His last clay-court loss came against Dominic Thiem in Rome last year. Nadal needs to win his 11th Barcelona title on Sunday to retain his No. 1 ranking. He won his 11th Monte Carlo Masters last week.
“Stefanos is a great player,” Nadal said. “Always the young players have something special and he’s playing with big confidence. He’s playing so well, so it’s going to be a very tough match.” Tsitsipas, No. 63 in the world, is the youngest finalist in Barcelona since 2005. He is trying to become the first unseeded champion in the tournament since Gaston Gaudio in 2002.
“I went onto the court and enjoyed every single moment,” said Tsitsipas, who can become the first Greek to win an ATP Tour title. “I am very proud of myself and also I believe I made my country proud.” A Greek hadn’t made it to a final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in 1973. It will be the first match between Nadal and Tsitsipas.
“I have watched millions of his matches on clay,” Tsitsipas said. “I know the way he is playing and, I think, the way he is going to play against me. I was preparing for this match already, 10 years (ago). I’m going to go out there, enjoy it and play my best.”