April 28, 2012
Nadal closes in on another clay title
By Sports Network
Barcelona, Spain - Rafael Nadal is one step away from another clay court title and will play for the Barcelona Open crown on Sunday against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in a rematch of the 2011 final.
Nadal rolled past countrymate Fernando Verdasco, 6-0, 6-4, in the second of Saturday's semifinals after Ferrer gutted out a 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-5) win over Canada's Milos Raonic in the opener.
It will be a familiar final on the red clay at the Real Club, as the two will meet for the title for a fourth time. Nadal prevailed in 2008, 2009 and again last year when the Mallorcan posted a 6-2, 6-4 triumph to improve to 13-4 in the all-time series.
In addition to the dominant overall mark, Nadal has won each of the last 10 meetings on clay. The lone Ferrer win on the slow surface came back in the first-ever meeting between the two, a three-set triumph in the 2004 Stuttgart quarterfinals.
Ferrer's other three wins in the 17-match series have come on hard courts.
Nadal, of course, is the "King of Clay." Of his 47 career titles, a whopping 33 have come on the surface. He won his eighth straight Monte Carlo crown last week and on Sunday will try to win the Barcelona title for the seventh time.
In addition to his wins over Ferrer, the 10-time Grand Slam champ also captured this French Open tuneup in 2005, '06 and '07. He has won 76 straight matches on clay in the month of April.
Saturday's trouncing of Verdasco started with a 29-minute first set, in which Nadal dropped just five points on serve. He picked up just one break in the second, converting in the fifth game en route to finishing the rout in a mere 85 minutes.
Ferrer had a much more difficult time on Saturday against Raonic, who knocked out Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Raonic failed on four break-point chances in the first set and had to save six against his own serve, then watched Ferrer dominate the tiebreak by winning the first six points. The second set also went on serve before Ferrer again prevailed in the tiebreak.
Sunday's final will be the fourth of the year for the sixth-ranked Ferrer, who won titles in Auckland, Buenos Aires and Acapulco before the first week of March had concluded. He was a surprise loser in his first match last week in Monte Carlo, falling to Thomaz Bellucci.
The 30-year-old veteran has a 28-4 match record this season.
Sunday's winner will claim $398,000.