Rafael Nadal clinched his 12th Barcelona Open title on Sunday, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in a titanic duel. Nadal won 6-4, 6-7(6), 7-5 and with it regained the World No. 2 ranking; the Spaniard had lost that spot to Daniil Medvedev last month.
Nadal was ranked No. 3 coming into the event and needed to win the title to overtake Medvedev. The Russian, of course, withdrew from the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open owing to a positive COVID-19 result, which made matters easier for Nadal.
Speaking to the media after his win, Rafael Nadal explained that he still has to work on his claycourt form. The 34-year-old made steady progress through the week in Barcelona, but he stressed that he was 'not perfect' in the final against Tsitsipas.
"I think I have been able to play better and better during the whole week [in] every single match and today was a little bit better than yesterday," Nadal said. "I have room to keep improving. I was not perfect."
Rafael Nadal also expressed hope that his hard-fought victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas will help him find the higher gear he knows he can attain on clay.
"I really believe that I can play better than what I am doing on clay and I really hope that the victory of today is going to help me to raise a little bit [my] level that I need today to fight for the next couple of events that I am going to play," he added.
The Mallorcan also showered rich praise on Stefanos Tsitsipas, lauding the Greek's passion towards the sport. Nadal went on to claim that Tsitsipas is talented enough to fight for the title at every event he participates in.
"He is a player that plays with a lot of passion," Nadal said. "He is young. He feels the sport. He has the talent and the motivation to be better and better, so it is normal that he is improving in all aspects of his game. He is one of the candidates to win every single tournament that he is playing."
Rafael Nadal went on to speak glowingly about his coaching team and family, both of whom have been instrumental throughout his career - especially during periods in which he has struggled.
"It is true that I had a great team and a great family next to me that has been so important for holding the passion and the motivation and [they have] helped me in the low moments," Nadal continued. "I am super happy to be where I am today. It is an important achievement for me and an achievement at the right moment of the season."
A look at what the ATP chart looks like now that Rafael Nadal has climbed back to No. 2
Despite a title-less run at Monte Carlo and Serbia, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic still leads the pack with 11,963 points in his kitty. Rafael Nadal is in second place with 9,810 points to his name, while Daniil Medvedev has dropped to No. 3 at 9,700 points.
Dominic Thiem retains his fourth spot and leads Stefanos Tsitsipas by close to 400 points. Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev occupy the sixth and seventh spots, respectively.
Interestingly, Roger Federer retains his eighth spot from last week with 5,875 points. The Swiss maestro will be back in action in a couple of weeks, which means it is unlikely for the ninth-ranked Diego Schwartzman - who trails Federer by roughly 2000 ranking points - to displace the Swiss anytime soon.
1. Novak Djokovic - 11,963 points
2. Rafael Nadal - 9,810 points
3. Daniil Medvedev - 9,700 points
4. Dominic Thiem - 8365 points
5. Stefanos Tsitsipas - 7,980 points
6. Alexander Zverev - 6,125 points
7. Andrey Rublev - 6,000 points
8. Roger Federer - 5,875 points
9. Diego Schwartzman - 3,765 points
10. Matteo Berrettini - 3,568 points