Rafael Nadal cruised into the final of the Barcelona Open and a meeting with Kei Nishikori after beating 10th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-3 . Nadal, who has still yet to drop a set this week, triumphed in an hour and 31 minutes to give himself the chance to take a ninth title in Barcelona.
With victory he will also have the opportunity to equal Guillermo Vilas’ Open era record of 49 clay-court titles when taking on world N0. 6 Nishikori in Sunday’s championship match. If he does so, it would be yet another milestone in what is already a legendary career. And, despite plenty of struggles over much of the past two years, there could yet be plenty more to come.
The return to his favorite surface appears to have given Nadal the comfort and confidence that has been lacking since injury ended his 2014 season. It is now nine straight victories for the Spaniard to begin the European clay-court season, taking in a record-equalling 28th Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo last week. That streak of wins was never truly in danger of being ended by Kohlschreiber in Saturday’s semifinal.
The 32-year-old German, ranked 27 in the world, had been on the losing end to Nadal in 11 of their 12 meetings, dating back more than nine years. And Nadal, without reaching the heights he ascended in the first set of his quarterfinal win over Fabio Fognini, still had far too much for his opponent.
Kohlschreiber, feeling the need to go for more than usual from the back of the court to try and break through Nadal’s renowned defense, was committing just too many unforced errors. And it was one of those that led to the decisive break of serve in the sixth game of the first set. Nadal had a chance for a second break and the set up 5-2. But, while Kohlscheiber did well to stave off that fate, Nadal, despite coughing up a couple of errors himself, managed to get over the line in his next service game to draw first blood.
The quality of the match remained patchy in the second set, but Nadal was capable of raising his game sufficiently when required, as he did in the seventh game when drilling a backhand winner to get the break of serve. The world No. 5 came up with the goods, too, when Kohlschreiber was serving to stay in the match, breaking for a third time in the contest to seal his place in another final on his first match point.