Fixture: (1) Rafael Nadal vs (6) Pablo Carreno Busta
Date: 24 April 2021
Tournament: Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell 2021
Venue: Barcelona, Spain
Category: ATP 500
Surface: Red clay
Prize money: €1,565,480
Match timing: Not before 4 pm local time, 7.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Amazon Prime Video
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta preview
Rafael Nadal's start to the clay season this year has been far from ideal. He looked decidedly out of sorts in the Monte Carlo quarterfinals last week, where he lost to Andrey Rublev.
Now playing in his home event at Barcelona, the 20-time Grand Slam champion has continued to look shaky. Nadal had to come back from a set down against World No. 111 Ilya Ivashka in the second round, before being taken the distance by Kei Nishikori in the third.
But the Spaniard did seem to be getting his rhythm back in the quarterfinal against Cameron Norrie, which he won in straight sets. Nadal now takes on former doubles partner and compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the semifinals on Saturday.
Carreno Busta ended his 2020 on a high, reaching the semifinals at the US Open and the quarterfinals at Roland Garros. His 2021 season was off to a solid start too; the Spaniard won two of his three matches with Spain at the ATP Cup, before being forced to retire from the Australian Open third round due to injury.
Carreno Busta then won his fifth tour-level title a couple of weeks ago, in Marbella. The 29-year-old also showed decent form at Monte Carlo, where he was outlasted by Casper Ruud in a three-set thriller in the third round.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta head-to-head
The semifinal in Barcelona is the eighth professional match between the two players, and Rafael Nadal currently leads the head-to-head 7-0 over Pablo Carreno Busta.
Three of Nadal's seven wins over his compatriot came last year itself. The World No. 3 defeated Carreno Busta at the Paris Masters, the Rome Masters and the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreno Busta prediction
Rafael Nadal has had to work through poor form and rustiness since his return to the tour in Monte Carlo. Over the last couple of weeks he has leaked several errors from neutral positions, and failed to find consistent depth on his groundstrokes.
The 34-year-old's serve has also troubled him a great deal, most noticeably in the Monte Carlo loss to Andrey Rublev.
But in Pablo Carreno Busta, Nadal will be facing an opponent he has completely dominated in the past. Carreno Busta's patient, dogged style of play has never really hurt the 20-time Grand Slam champion, and certainly not on clay.
But Carreno Busta is one of the most consistent players on tour at the moment, and his recent form reinforces that. The 29-year-old's footwork and court positioning, along with his solid hitting from the baseline, make him a force on clay.
If Nadal is not clinical on his chances and fails to find his spots on the serve again, Carreno Busta does have the game to make things tricky. That said, the 11-time Barcelona champion has played himself into form and fitness this week, and looks focused to win his first title of the year.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in two tight sets.