Barcelona Open 2019: Thiem's moment of glory, Nadal's slip on clay and Ferrer's swansong – A look-back at the top highlights
On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Pista Rafa Nadal, the centre court at the Barcelona Open, Dominic Thiem, potential heir to the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in the years to follow, scripted one of the most intriguing stories of this year’s event as he upset Nadal in straight sets to storm into the final. In the process, Thiem broke Nadal’s unprecedented winning streak of 11-0 at the Barcelona Open semi-finals on a court that is now named after the Spaniard himself.
After being victorious against Nadal in the semi-finals, the Austrian wasn’t going to relinquish his shot at the title as he recorded a memorable, dominating and praiseworthy straight-set win over Daniil Medvedev in the final to win his first ever title in Barcelona. For Dominic Thiem, the win in Barcelona is a follow-up to his majestic win over Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells where he won his first Masters 1000 title a little earlier this year.
With already two titles in the bag for the year so far and more than half of the clay season yet to follow, this can very well turn out to be Dominic Thiem’s coming-of-age year, which can finally give justice to his immense potential. Jaw-dropping forehand shots, mesmerizing one-handed backhanders that can certainly make Roger Federer proud too, vicious drop shots and a dominating display of breathtaking tennis coupled with tremendous patience from behind the baseline make the 25-year-old Austrian indeed a special player and one of its kind on clay.
Ferrer's final appearance in Barcelona
David Ferrer, the unsung hero of Spanish tennis, if not tennis in general, who is set to retire from the sport after the Madrid Open, dropped his bandana on the court after his defeat to compatriot and friend Rafael Nadal and bid a final goodbye to his fans in Barcelona. But, before that, he entertained us with some vintage Ferrer tennis and trademark shots as he recorded twin straight-set wins over Lucas Pouille and Mischa Zverev in his swansong at Barcelona.
Daniil Medvedev, the runner-up at the Barcelona Open, who made his first ever strong impression on the tennis circuit when he beat Stan Wawrinka in the very first round of Wimbledon 2017, has indeed come a long way. Even though he was outplayed by the Barcelona Open champion Thiem in the final, he can draw huge inspiration from his journey on clay this year so far as he not only upset Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters last week but also got the better of Kei Nishikori in the semi-finals to book a place in the final of Barcelona Open.
For Alexander Zverev, his form continues to desert him and wins continue to evade him. His exit as early as the Round of 32 against Nicolas Jarry casts heavy doubts on his chances for this season as we look forward to diving deep into the clay court swing. May be it's just a bad phase in his career for the young German or a curious case of a talented individual losing his path. In either way, it is imperative that the 22-year old finds a way out of this vicious circle before it is way too late.
Rafa slips on clay yet again
For Rafael Nadal, he not only finds himself in a bit of a hole but also in a precarious situation which he is not at all used to be in, especially on the red dirt following his back-to-back semi-final defeats. Is he not playing well as he did in previous two years when he won four out of five tournaments on clay? May be it is hard to tell from outside, but one thing is for sure; he has set such an incredibly high standard on clay for himself and for the rest to follow over the last 15 years that It would be harder and harder to replicate those with his ageing body and diminishing willpower as years continue to roll by.
With three tournaments yet to follow, Nadal still has plenty of time and opportunities to make up for lost ground, but one must not forget that the competition is going to get stiffer and stiffer as we look forward to heading into Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.