Barcelona Open: 10-time champion Rafael Nadal leads draw; Djokovic, Nishikori, Thiem, Dimitrov look to make strides
From picturesque Monaco, the ATP World Tour action shifts to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Trofeo Conde de Godo at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona as the clay court swing continues.
A sizzling past few days at the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters came to a close with Rafael Nadal successfully defending his title and holding aloft the prestigious Masters 1000 trophy for a record 11th time. With this title triumph, Nadal surpassed Novak Djokovic's record of 30 Masters Titles.
The ATP 500 Barcelona Open is one of the most important events in Spanish tennis with 13 out of the 15 past editions being won by Spaniards. It goes without saying that the World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has dominated the red surface, winning 10 titles at the event. He also has a staggering 19 ATP 500 Titles, one shy of the Swiss great Roger Federer at 20.
Japan's Kei Nishikori has been triumphant twice at the tournament while Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo have clinched the title once each, in 2010 and 2004 respectively.
Novak Djokovic, who is still finding his feet after the pre-quarterfinal finish in Monte Carlo, has accepted a wild card in Barcelona and will make his first appearance there since 2006. The Serb looked pretty good in Monaco as he registered some great wins after a comeback from his elbow injury.
World No. 7, Dominic Thiem, runner-up in 2017, is also looking to make it to the finals this season at the tournament. He has a daunting potential third-round challenge from the dangerous Verdasco.
Here's a breakdown of the ATP 500 Barcelona Open draw.
List of the top 16 seeds in Barcelona:
1 Rafael Nadal
2 Grigor Dimitrov
3 Dominic Thiem
4 David Goffin
5 Pablo Carreno Busta
6 Novak Djokovic
7 Diego Schwartzman
8 Roberto Bautista Agut
9 Hyeon Chung
10 A Ramos-Vinolas
11 A Mannarino
12 F Lopez
13 Andrey Rublev
14 Kei Nishikori
15 Fernando Verdasco
16 Karen Khachanov
Predicted quarter-final Rafa Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
Top seed Nadal and 6th seed Djokovic have landed in the same quarter of the draw for the second time in two weeks. The Spaniard is in sizzling form ever since that Davis Cup weekend in Valencia. Taking Spain into the semi-finals after six long years, Nadal proved his comeback on clay in the most significant fashion ever.
Eyeing yet another title this time in Barcelona after that record 11th triumph in Monte Carlo, Nadal looks determined to continue his stupendous European clay-court swing.
Meanwhile, Novak is playing in Barcelona for the first time since 2006 when he was inflicted with a first-round loss. The Serbian put up a stellar show in Monte Carlo by reaching the round of 16 and stretching Dominic Thiem to three sets before succumbing to the Austrian.
With a certain Marian Vajda by Novak's side again, the former World No. 1 will look to go deep into the tournament this time around.
For Nadal, although a quarter-final ticket is a guarantee, there looms a challenge in the form of Kei Nishikori in the third round. A two-time Barcelona Open champ, the Japanese has ousted the King of Clay twice in his career, including in the Rio Olympic Games 2016 in Brazil and the Canada Masters 2015.
Nadal improved to 10-2 in their head to head yesterday with a win in the Monte Carlo Final. It seems almost impossible that the Japanese can pose much of a threat to the Spaniard. Also, coming back from injuries of his own, what is most likely is that Nishikori will be forced into submission by the World No. 1.
Novak is in much better form than what those early exits in Indian Wells and Miami indicated and he proved that in Monte Carlo. But an opening round challenge in the form of Federico Delbonis (possibly) needs to be handled with care. Also, a third round face-off with Feliciano Lopez awaits the Serb. Agreed Lopez should not be a tough task but let us keep our fingers crossed and hope he coasts to the quarters with ease to meet the Spanish great.
Semi-finalist: Rafael Nadal.