The city of Barcelona, home to the legendary football club FC Barcelona, has an unique importance in Spanish sporting culture. It has not only witnessed a rich tradition of footballers bringing glory to the region but has also seen the evolution of many tennis stars who have conquered the planet.
As we move into the Round of 16 matches on Thursday at the Barcelona Open, an historic moment awaits us. We will see a clash between two Spaniards who have enthralled us and captivated our imagination with the breathtaking tennis they have played against each other over the course of last 15 years.
This match is much more than just a contest; it is like a celebration of our beloved sport, celebration of Spanish tennis in general. This is a battle between a supreme conqueror and a gladiator who has lived in the shadows for pretty much his entire career. But Ferrer has managed to carve out a name for himself that will likely stand the test of time.
While Ferrer looks in good form after his comprehensive and one-sided victories over Mischa Zverev and Lucas Pouille, the defending champion and the ‘King of Clay’ Nadal hasn’t looked at his imperious best on clay so far.
Ferrer’s resurgence in the twilight of his career and Nadal’s dip in claycourt form have certainly added an element of spice to look forward to as the duo prepare to face off against each other, probably for one final time. It is perhaps fitting that they get a chance to play this last match on clay and that too at Barcelona, their home tournament.
So what can one expect from this Nadal vs Ferrer clash? While it is true that Nadal starts as an overwhelming favourite and Ferrer as the underdog, this is a contest between two clay-court titans. We are all aware about Nadal’s ability on clay, but very few could match Ferrer in his prime on clay. Nadal will be more than aware about the threat that his countryman can bring to the table.
Nadal has triumphed on all the five occasions that these two have met in Barcelona. An objective viewer wouldn't expect any change in the result of the match on this occasion either, but the fan in us would still hope to witness vintage Ferrer in full flow, pushing the defending champion to his limits when he steps out on Pista Rafa Nadal.
Ferrer will say final adieu to the game at the Madrid Masters in a couple of weeks. It is a little sad that a player of his aura and calibre is retiring at Madrid and not at Roland Garros. But then again, a man who has achieved so many incredible accolades in his long and satisfying career certainly deserves a choice regarding when and where to walk away.Published 25 Apr 2019, 12:41 IST