Barcelona Open preview: Does Rafael Nadal’s wobbling form make for a relatively open field?
For an ATP 500, the Barcelona Open offers a bloated array of talent all aiming to win the Catalonia based tournament, and James Spencer talks us through what to expect.
Having endured a shock semi-final loss to Italian Fabio Fognini, Spaniard Nadal will go in search of a 12th Barcelona Open title. His sheer experience in these surroundings makes him a clear favourite, although his injury issues have clouded the picture somewhat.
The 17-time Grand Slam Champion has admitted to feeling low and a lack of confidence due to his limited number of wins and matches of late. He will certainly be vulnerable in Barcelona. That said, there’s no doubt Nadal will be hurting from his Monte-Carlo loss and will be fired up to show he’s still the “King of Clay.”
World number three, Alexander Zverev has taken a late wildcard and his poor form cannot go on forever. The clay is typically the young German’s strongest surface having won two Masters 1000’s on clay, he will be keen to get his season back on track.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem who made the final in 2017 appears to have gone off the boil since winning the title at Indian Wells. He has suffered early defeats at Miami and last week in Monte Carlo to eventual finalist, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.
Twice a winner previously in Barcelona, Kei Nishikori or “Clay” Nishikori as some of his fans like to call him can beat some of the very best on this surface. It will be interesting to see if the Japanese can win a third Barcelona title and build some momentum towards the French Open.
New Monte-Carlo Masters champion, Fabio Fognini, was due to play in Barcelona but his injuries and intense week in the Principality mean he may yet skip the event. It has been suggested that Fognini was better off resting his injuries in the build up to the French Open and to enjoy the victory with his family, and he may well follow that line of thinking himself.
There are also some dangerous and experienced Spaniards lurking in the draw. Former French Open 2013 finalist, David Ferrer will take on Misha Zverev, older brother to Alexander.
Meanwhile, Queens club 2017 champion, Feliciano Lopez, will take on wily 35-year-old left hander and former world number seven, Fernando Verdasco. That is likely to be a blockbuster clash for clay-court fans and for the local crowd.
France’s Lucas Pouille who got to the Australian Open semi-finals this year and Belgium’s David Goffin, yet to find his best form, are also in the draw. Next Gen star, Frances Tiafoe, last year’s finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and local hero Pablo Carreno-Busta will fancy themselves as dark horses.
And Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman who took a set off Nadal at the 2017 French Open is also in the draw along with countryman Guido Pella who caused a few problems for Nadal in Monte-Carlo despite defeat.
Young Canadian duo Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Gilles Simon, Grigor Dimitrov, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Joao Sousa and Benoit Paire also feature in this packed line-up.
It is arguably the strongest line-up the Barcelona Open organisers have ever put together. If Nadal is to win a 12th title in Catalonia he will have to do it the hard way.
More from Tennis365:
Britain’s Heather Watson beaten in Abu Dhabi as the world No.1 also crashes out
Heather Watson bowed out of the Abu Dhabi Open in a gruelling second-round defeat by 17th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Quarantine plan revealed for the game’s top players ahead of Australian Open
The world’s leading players will quarantine in Adelaide rather than Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
Rising star provisionally suspended from all tennis activity following a positive doping test
Ukrainian rising star Dayana Yastremska has been…
Is this the real reason why Roger Federer is skipping next month’s Australian Open?
Roger Federer suggested he pulled out of the Australian Open for fitness reasons, yet other reasons were in play.
Sofia Kenin wins as the tennis season gets underway despite doubts over what happens next
No.1 seed Sofia Kenin of the United…
Exclusive – F1 champ Jenson Button on his love of tennis and the Federer vs Nadal debate
Formula 1 ace Jenson Button has admitted he is ‘in awe’ of the tennis giants of the modern era.
Exclusive – British Davis Cup captain makes a prediction for Dan Evans in 2021
British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith believes Dan Evans could be a player to watch in 2021.
Tennis star Camila Giorgi draws mixed response after posting sexy lingerie images on social media
Tennis star Camila Giorgi has been targeted by online trolls after sharing a series of racy lingerie snaps on her social media channels.
Legendary coach of Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic loses his fight with cancer
Bob Brett, one of tennis’ most respected coaches and a former director of player development has died of cancer.
Australian Open organisers scrambling to finalise preparations for players
The hard work appeared to have been done when Tennis Australia announced last month that the tournament would start on February 8.