RED-HOT NADAL

Spa­niard wins ‘dream’ 10th Barcelona Open

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BARCELONA

RAFAEL Nadal hailed a “dream start” to his clay court sea­son af­ter romp­ing to his 10th Barcelona Open on Sun­day with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem.

The Spa­niard also claimed his 10th ti­tle at the Monte Carlo Masters last week as he gears up for to go for his 10th French Open next month.

“It is two con­sec­u­tive weeks win­ning, in Monte Carlo and here, two spe­cial tour­na­ments for me, it is a dream start on clay,” said Nadal.

“It means a lot for me to reach num­ber 10 here in Barcelona, in front of the peo­ple of my club, I am very happy and emo­tional.”

Nadal won in Barcelona be­tween 2005-2009, 2011-13 and now in the last two years.

The 14-time Grand Slam cham­pion also looks like the man to beat at Roland Gar­ros af­ter win­ning on a Barcelona court named af­ter him and where he didn’t drop a set all week.

“I thank the club and its mem­bers for putting my name on this court. It means a lot to me,” added Nadal.

Nadal has now won 19 straight sets, but Thiem was the tough­est op­po­nent he has faced on clay so far this year.

Thiem had shocked World No 1 Andy Mur­ray in Sat­ur­day’s semi­fi­nals and showed some early re­sis­tance. The World No 9 even had his only break point of the match in the first game.

But Nadal, re­turn­ing to top form at age 30, upped his in­ten­sity at the cru­cial mo­ment and Thiem crum­bled with three er­rors in the 10th game to give away the only break of the set.

“The first set was vi­tally im­por­tant,” added Nadal.

“It was hard. I was hav­ing a few more chances than him but it was very even and that is why I cel­e­brated with so much en­ergy at the end.”

The sec­ond set was a pro­ces­sion as Thiem’s frus­tra­tion at his in­abil­ity to break through Nadal’s de­fences saw him con­sis­tently fire long.

Thiem held off three break points in his open­ing ser­vice game, but was pow­er­less to stop Nadal there­after as he won the last five games to seal vic­tory in just over 90 min­utes on court.

How­ever, Thiem wasn’t too dis­heart­ened af­ter los­ing out to the king of clay af­ter what had been a pro­duc­tive week.

“I re­ally en­joyed the week in Barcelona,” he said.

“There are worse things than to lose against the great­est player on clay ever.”

REUTERS PIC

Rafael Nadal re­turns a shot to Do­minic Thiem at the Real Club de Te­nis Barcelona on Sun­day.

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